Sep 30, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) passes during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Minnesota won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

Titans @ Vikings – Preview

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Hello TVA readers, my name is Scott Wollan and I am a new addition to the writing staff here at TVA.  To introduce myself I am a die-hard Vikes fan from across the pond in the UK or rather Wales to be more specific. Anyway down to business, the Vikings have been a very pleasant surprise so far this season and over the last two week’s look to be turning the corner as a team. The offense has been consistent, safe and steady while also being able to sustain drives and chew the clock, the defense also has looked much improved thus far being impressive in the wins over the 49ers and the Lions.

The Vikings enter Sunday with a (3-1) record and are joint top of the NFC North. They also play the next 3 of 4 games at home, which means this is a crucial period of the season for the Vikings. This is where we will see if this team is heading in the right direction or if the hype of the past two weeks was just that… hype. The Vikings enter Sunday as healthy as anyone in the NFL, safety Mistral Raymond is the only starter on the team expected to miss out. The Tennessee Titans however will be missing starting Quarterback Jake Locker, while WR Kenny Britt the Titans best downfield threat is listed as questionable after missing last week’s game against Houston.

With Jake Locker missing through injury veteran Matt Hasselbeck will start, Hasselbeck has played twice this year coming into games after Locker was injured. In his first appearance of the season against the Patriots, Hasselback went 6/11 with 55 yards passing and in his second against the Texans he went 17/25 for 193 yards, 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s. While Hasselback is not getting any younger he should still be considered a threat to the Vikings defense as he can clearly spread the ball efficiently. Although with his lack of mobility it does give the Vikings defensive line the opportunity to get to him early and knock him off his rhythm. Given the likely noise inside the dome this Sunday with the Vikes on a winning streak this could become a sack fest.

That brings us to the matchup of Adrian Peterson vs. Chris Johnson. AP had a huge game last Sunday in his bid to get back to full fitness after such a devastating injury. He ran 21 times for 102 yards and looked like the Adrian we’ve grown accustom too, breaking tackles for fun and running for big yardage. Chris Johnson also had a big game last week, his first big game in a long, long time. He ran 25 times for 141 yards with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. We all know what Johnson is capable of, you don’t run for 2000 yards in a single season by accident but considering the 3 previous games of the season where he averaged barely anything (0.4, 2.1, 1.7) It is worrying when you think of his rounding into form just in time to face our Vikes.

What to look for

I expect the Titans to try and establish the run early and often to try and keep the Vikings defensive line off-balance and off Matt Hasselbeck. I also expect the Vikings to keep on doing what they’ve been doing, playing smart football and not beating themselves with turnovers.

However Ponder playing safe and continuing to take the check downs will only take the Vikings so far, it won’t be long before a team will attempt and succeed in taking away the short options and make Ponder beat them downfield. That’s where Jerome Simpson comes in, Jerome had a big game for the Vikes last week catching 4 balls for 50 yards and also drawing two interference penalties for big yardage against the Lions secondary. The Vikings have to show they are capable of going deep soon or they are going to be much more predictable and easier to beat. Look for a lot of runs this Sunday for the Vikes on 1st and 2nd downs as Adrian Peterson is given more carries as he gets stronger and as Bill Musgrave continues to keep the game manageable for his young QB Christian Ponder. I don’t expect the Vikings to run away with this game but if this team continues to play how it has over the past two weeks I do expect for them to be able to convert offensively and be tough and resilient in defense.

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