Over the first seven games of the 2017 season, the Vikings have had several dramatic twists and turns to their season, but through it all they've emerged with a chance to sit alone in first place atop the NFC North heading into their much-needed bye week. The winless Cleveland Browns, today's opponent at Twickenham Stadium in London, will be the ones to try and sidetrack the Vikings and put a real damper on things here in late October.
Note that kickoff for the contest will be at 8:30AM CT, with the game airing nationally on NFL Network, and on CBS in the Twin Cities. Fans can catch Paul Allen and Co. calling the game on KFAN 100.3 FM as always.
After Wednesday's practice at Winter Park, the Vikings too to the air and flew overnight to London, getting a walk-thru practice in on Thursday afternoon at the team hotel. Come Friday, it was off to a local rugby pitch to get a 'normal' Friday practice in. Saturday's mock game was held at Twickenham. So, as much as possible, Head Coach Mike Zimmer tried to keep this week of preparation to be just like any other road trip.
As it relates directly to the game on the field, the Vikings will once again go with Case Keenum at quarterback. QB Sam Bradford made the trip to London but did not practice this week due to his knee injury, while Teddy Bridgewater went through his second week of practice after being cleared the week leading into the Ravens game.
Keenum started slow during last Sunday's win over the Ravens but finished completing 20 of 31 passes for 188 yards, including one interception that didn't prove costly. He spoke to reporters this week about trying 'not to screw things up,' citing the team's high-end defense as the key to picking up wins.
He may get one of his top targets, WR Stefon Diggs, back in the mix. Diggs has missed the last two games with a groin injury but practiced in full on Thursday and Friday this week; he's listed as questionable for today's game.
A pair of offensive linemen, Riley Reiff (knee) and Nick Easton (calf), are also questionable. Easton was limited all week, while Reiff – like Diggs – as full-go the last two days. The Vikings signed squad C Cornelius Edison to the active roster on Saturday off of the practice squad, giving the team some interior line depth in the event that Easton is unable to play.
The Vikings offense will be going against the NFL's fifth-best run defense. The good news for the Vikings is that the Ravens, another team stout against the run when their defensive line is healthy, were unable to keep the Vikings ground attack pinned down last week, as the team ran for 169 yards in the victory.
Cleveland's front will be without DE Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in last April's draft, who suffered a concussion last week and didn't make the trip to London. He missed action early this season due to an ankle injury but had been very disruptive when he's been on the field.
"Disruptive" would be good word to describe at least a half-dozen of Zimmer's defenders, as the unit has been on a tear for much of this season. The group is fifth in the NFL in points allowed and chock-full of Pro Bowlers at every level.
They figure to make life tough on a Cleveland offense that has trouble getting much done this season, due in large part to instability at the quarterback position. Rookie DeShone Kizer is slated to start today, who has started more games than any other Cleveland quarterback this season but was benched last Sunday in favor of Cody Kessler.
Regardless of who is at quarterback, things don't figure to be made any easier with the loss of future Hall of Fame LT Joe Thomas, who injured his triceps last Sunday and will miss the rest of the season, ending his remarkable streak of playing 10,363 snaps in a row. Rookie Spencer Drango, a fifth round pick by the Browns this year, is now tasked with taking on Everson Griffen, who is third in the NFL with 9.0 sacks.
Much like the Ravens last week, the Browns aren't a team littered with weapons at offensive skill positions, but players such as WR Kenny Britt, RB Duke Johnson Jr. and TE David Njoku are names to watch that could certainly make the Vikings pay if they are off their game.
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