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Top Threats on Vikings Home Schedule

When the Vikings 2015 schedule was released back in April, we identified the top threats from each of the Vikings 10 home opponents (preseason and regular season). Now that single-game tickets have gone on sale, the NFL draft has occurred and some additional roster moves were made, we've taken another crack at identifying the top non-QBs on each team set to visit Minnesota in 2015 and we've also added a wrinkle by noting which Vikings player will be best at balancing out the threat.

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Preseason

Tampa Bay:DT Gerald McCoy
McCoy is as good a player at his position as there is in the League. He is equally disruptive against the pass and the run. But don't sleep on WR Mike Evans, who emerged last season as a rookie and is a lethal offensive threat for the Buccaneers.

*Vikings counter attacker: *Veteran center John Sullivan could see Brandon Fusco move from his right to his left and a possible rookie, perhaps T.J. Clemmings or Tyrus Thompson, or second-year pro David Yankey on his right. Sullivan's anchoring of the line will be important, and although snaps may be limited in number, McCoy will pose quality competition.

Oakland:Amari Cooper
The first change on this list happens here, where LB Khalil Mack has been swapped out for Cooper, whom the Raiders selected fourth overall in April. Mack is a great young talent in his own right, but Cooper brings three years of elite production from Alabama, including 16 TDs and over 1,700 yards last season, to help young QB Derek Carr.

Vikings counter attacker: *Offseason acquisition Terence Newman repped with the ones on the outside during the Vikings offseason program and has six previous seasons of playing in a Mike Zimmer defense. He was always around the ball against younger Vikings receivers. Could the savvy 13-year vet offer a welcome-to-the-NFL type of moment for the Raiders rookie? *


Regular Season

Chicago:RB Matt Forte
One of the top dual threats in the League, Forte has over 1,000 rushing yards, 102 receptions and 10 total touchdowns for the Bears in 2014 and in two games against the Vikings he totaled 249 yards of offense.

*Vikings counter attacker: *The Vikings practiced with Eric Kendricks at middle linebacker quite a bit this offseason, and he showed natural instincts covering routes. We'll have to wait until training camp and the preseason to see his tackling in-person. It's worth noting that Audie Cole did a great job manning the middle against the Bears in the 2014 finale and helped limit damage done by Forte. 

Detroit:WR Calvin Johnson
As good as it gets at any position in the NFL. "Megatron" is a mega-problem for Lions opponents and the Vikings will contend with him twice this season.

*Vikings counter attacker: *Xavier Rhodes shadowed Johnson in the second matchup last season, containing him to four catches for 53 yards. Any rematches this year should be physical between the sizeable cornerback and receiver.

Green Bay: WR Randall Cobb
Cobb would've been one of the best free agents on the market, but Green Bay didn't let him go and instead he'll remain one of Aaron Rodgers' top targets in the passing game. Cobb can also impact the game as a kickoff returner and a runner out of the backfield.

*Vikings counter attacker: *Who better than Wisconsin native and first-round pick Trae Waynes, the fastest cornerback at the 2015 NFL Combine (4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

Seattle:CB Richard Sherman
With 24 interceptions in just 58 regular season games, Sherman is as impactful a defender as there is in the NFL. He also brings an attitude and demeanor that has made the "Legion of Boom" a historically significant phenomena.

*Vikings counter attacker: *Everything shown by Mike Wallace since his arrival at Winter Park is that he's a hard worker. He's shown he can also be a gamer with previous teams, and seems to be the kind of guy who wants to face tough competitors like Sherman.

St. Louis:DE Robert Quinn
The Rams have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and Quinn is the best player on it. He had 19.0 sacks in 2013 and registered 10.5-sack season in both 2012 and in 2014. He has 45.5 sacks in just four seasons.

*Vikings counter attacker: *With Quinn leading a comprehensive pass rush, the best answer could be runs by Adrian Peterson, whose impact on last season's matchup extended beyond his 21 carries for 75 yards.

Kansas City:LB Justin Houston
The NFL's single-season sack record of 22.5 has been under assault annually of late, and the most recent challenger to that mark was the Chiefs Justin Houston, who had 22.0 in 2014. In just four seasons, Houston has 48.5 sacks.

*Vikings counter attacker: *Kyle Rudolph's ability in the passing game could help Teddy Bridgewater spot him quickly if Houston manages to bring the heat. Rudolph also might be called upon from time to time to chip Houston before releasing on his route.

San Diego:Melvin Gordon
At the risk of putting a rookie on a pedestal too early, another change in this list happens here where we've removed S Eric Weddle in favor of rookie RB Melvin Gordon. A childhood friend of Vikings CB Trae Waynes, Gordon will get an up-close look at his buddy's new team in Minnesota on September 27 when the Chargers visit Minnesota for a Week 3 matchup. A prolific rusher for the Badgers, Gordon assaulted the record books during his time at Wisconsin, leading the nation in rushing touchdowns with 29 and posting the second-most single-season rushing yards in FBS history with 2,587 in 2014. He brings a huge boost to San Diego's offense and a huge challenge for the Vikings defense.

*Vikings counter attacker: *Anthony Barr, who began his college career as a running back, showed great tackling ability and a propensity to make important plays in his rookie season.

NY Giants:WR Odell Beckham, Jr.
The ability to make all the routine catches and his propensity to make the impossible ones make Beckham, Jr. one of the NFL's newest and brightest stars. In just 12 games last year, OBJ had 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns.

*Vikings counter attacker: *An effective pass rush can reduce the amount of time defenders have to cover Beckham, and Everson Griffen likely will lead the charge in his second year as a starter. Griffen will try to deliver an encore season to his team-highs of 12 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 70 quarterback hurries from 2014.

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