The Vikings come off their bye week with a chance to once again get back to .500. I’m becoming a bit repetitive but I have to say it one more time anyway: The Vikings need not just a win but a clean win. Teams don’t get to the playoffs on flukes, especially not in a conference where even 10-6 may not be good enough to earn a wild card. The Texans are not that good a team, and the Vikings are at home, and it is therefore not unreasonable to expect a good solid 10 point win by Minnesota. Except that, this year, the only thing one feels comfortable expecting is the unexpected. We were supposed to thrash the Lions at home a couple of weeks ago and wound up needing a ref-aided act of prestidigitation. How, we find ourselves asking, will the Vikings mess it up this week?
Special teams has been at the top of the culprit list, punt coverage in particular. And guess what? The Texans feature a dangerous return man in Jacoby Jones. Chris Kluwe has probably been sleeping with a tape recorder under his pillow that repeats the words “kick it out of bounds” over and over. Let’s hope Chris got the message – it would be a shame for Brad Childress‘s head to explode like a pumpkin with an M-80 in it.
Then there are the turnover issues. 4 INTs against the Bears. Gus Frerotte needs to play better than that and he knows it. The Texans, for what it’s worth, are 16th in the league against the pass – so I guess that means we should be able to throw on them. This is of course contingent on the Vikings keeping Mario Williams off Frerotte. The bust-turned-star has 7 sacks this year and is perhaps salivating at the chance to carve up a Vikings offensive line that has been less-than-stout in pass protection. Maybe this week the Vikes will learn to use the screen pass to slow down the rush? I always thought that was Football 101 but I guess Childress and Company slept through that particular class.
But enough negativity – let’s get positive. Let’s talk about Adrian Peterson who I think is going to have a big game today. It started to come together against the Bears, the blocking and mixing in the single-back sets that Adrian says he likes, and now I just have a feeling in my bones that we’re in for a huge game. I’m predicting 174 yards and 2 TDs for Adrian, one TD being longer than 30 yards. Considering my prediction record so far this season, I probably just doomed Adrian to a 20 carry, 43 yard sort of game with two fumbles, but screw it. Positivity is my middle name now. That applies to our defense too, which I expect to bounce back after that semi-whupping by the Bears. Madieu Williams will at last be in the starting line-up, putting the Vikes’ secondary at full-strength for the first time all season. The presence of rookie Tyrell Johnson and consistent marshmallow-soft coverage specialist Cedric Griffin has meant very little action on the Antoine Winfield/Darren Sharper side of the field, but with Williams in there, teams may be less inclined to throw away from those guys. And this could help Sharper finally get on the board with an interception this year. Fingers crossed on that one.
As for my score prediction – forget it. I’m tired of throwing out a score like 13-12 only to have the game end up looking like the old Fouts Chargers vs. the ’98 Purple. I have no idea if this game will be a tough low-scoring affair or a shoot-out. The Vikes are too inconsistent. And I frankly have no idea about Houston because, well, they’re Houston and I pay zero attention to them. Nothing would surprise me today. 40-38 wouldn’t surprise me and neither would 7-3. 35-10 Vikings would not shock me – and neither would 35-10 Houston. That’s sort of how it goes with .500-type teams.