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The Skinny Post: Texans 1 of 4 Defending Division Champs on Vikings Slate

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings are one of three teams left with an unblemished record.

Minnesota moved to 4-0 with a 24-10 win over the New York Giants last week on Monday Night Football behind another strong defensive outing and a pair of rushing touchdowns.

The Vikings will play the second of back-to-back home games at U.S. Bank Stadium  at noon (CT) Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Houston is 3-1, with all three of its wins coming at home. The Texans scored a 27-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans last week.

The Texans, who went 9-7 in 2015 and won the AFC South, will be without star defensive end J.J. Watt, who is on injured reserve with a back injury. 

On the airwaves: The game will be broadcast regionally by CBS. Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots will be on the call. The game also will be broadcast on KFAN 100.3-FM and across the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network by the team of Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Greg Coleman and Ben Leber. There is also a national radio broadcast by Sports USA with Wayne Randazzo and John Robinson calling the game.

Three things to watch:

Know the Houston Texans key contributors on offense, defense and special teams heading into the game on Sunday.

Trying to solve Minnesota's defenseEric Smith

When the Vikings beat the Panthers two weeks ago, Minnesota sacked Carolina quarterback Cam Newton eight times as he tried to connect on lengthy passing plays.

The Giants and quarterback Eli Manning tried a different approach, using quick passes to get the ball out before the Vikings pass rush could collapse the pocket.

Both strategies ended with a Vikings win, with the Panthers and Giants each only scoring 10 points. Which tactic will Houston and quarterback Brock Osweiler employ?

That remains to be seen, but Osweiler said he's impressed with a unit that is surrendering just 12.5 points per game, the second-best mark in the league.

"There's not a lot of bad you can really say about that unit when you turn on the tape," Osweiler said. "No matter which group of 11 guys are on the field, they're flying around, they're physical and they're making plays.

"We know we have a huge challenge going into Sunday's game," he added.

The Texans strong stable of wide receivers will present another test for Minnesota's defense. Will the Vikings be up to the challenge once again?

Stopping the runLindsey Young

The Vikings will attempt to shut down a Texans run game that is currently tied for 11th in the league with 450 rushing yards accrued over the first four games of the season. It's interesting to note, however, that while the Texans have gained that many yards, they don't yet have a rushing touchdown in the books.

Houston's main running back is Lamar Miller, who is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has totaled 351 yards.

"He's a tough runner," Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien said of Miller. "He can run inside, run outside, obviously he's got good vision. He's been good in the passing game. He's a good protecting back, he's been good when he gets out – he leaks out into the route. He's had some good plays for us there."

On Thursday, Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said that stopping the run is their first focus on Sunday. Although the Texans tailor their offense each week for their specific opponent, Robison said they "set everything up" with the run game.

"They're going to give us a lot of different looks," Robison said. "We need to be on our Ps and Qs in the run game this week."

The Vikings defense currently ranks eighth in the league against the run, as they've limited opponents to an average of 3.6 yards per attempt and 82.5 total rushing yards per game.

Will Bradford keep spreading ball around?Craig Peters

We saw Sam Bradford in lockstep with Stefon Diggs in the quarterback's first start with the Vikings to the tune of nine catches, 183 yards and a touchdown. We've also seen him lock in with Kyle Rudolph for seven catches and 70 yards at Carolina.

Rudolph has a touchdown catch in each of the past three weeks, matching the length of a career-best streak he had in his 2012 season that garnered a trip to the Pro Bowl, where he was named MVP of the all-star game.

Last week, Bradford ran point through the offense, connecting with nine players for at least one completion and with Diggs, Rudolph and Cordarrelle Patterson five times apiece. Rudolph and Diggs spent time on the injury report this week, and Diggs is listed as doubtful.

It will be interesting to see how Bradford and the Vikings pass attack approach the Texans if Diggs, who is fifth in the NFL with 372 receiving yards, is unable to play or limited.

Rudolph has 19 catches for 221 yards and three scores, Adam Thielen has 13 catches for 145 yards, followed by Patterson (seven catches, 52 yards) and Charles Johnson (five catches, 90 yards), whom Bradford connected with on a pair of **explosive plays** against the Giants.

The Vikings also have Jarius Wright and first-round pick Laquon Treadwell at receiver. Wright was inactive at Tennessee, against Green Bay and against New York. Treadwell was inactive at Carolina.

Substantial Stats

— The Vikings lead the NFL with a plus-10 turnover ratio. Minnesota's defense has forced 11 takeaways, and its offense hasn't turned the ball over. The Vikings only turnover is a fumble on defense after forcing and recovering a fumble by the Packers.

— Minnesota's defense has allowed a combined passer rating of 67.6 through four games. The quartet of Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Eli Manning have combined to throw three touchdowns and six interceptions.

— Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford has compiled a 105.5 passer rating in three starts with Minnesota. Bradford has completed 66 of 95 passes (69.5 percent) for 719 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions.

— Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V leads all NFL rookies with 323 receiving yards and is tied for the league lead among rookies with two touchdowns. Fuller also had a 67-yard punt return for a score last week against the Titans.


"Trust me, this isn't a trap game. These guys are 3-1 and the AFC South champions. They've got a good program. We're going to have to play really good." — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Sunday's matchup against Houston.

Worth a watch

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was mic’d up during Monday night's 24-10 win over the Giants. Munnerlyn was part of a Vikings secondary that limited New York quarterback Eli Manning to a season-low passer rating of 63.3 and the Giants starting receivers to 103 yards on 12 catches.

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