Saturday, September 13, 2014

Matchup Mashup: Your Patriots-Vikings primer


Week 2: New England Patriots (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0).
Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
Weather: N/A (Indoors).

The skinny:
The Matt Cassel-led Vikings are in first place in the NFC North. The Tom Brady-led Patriots are in last place in the AFC East. Welcome to Week 2. The Patriots are coming off a bit off a stunner, losing on the road to the rival Miami Dolphins in a game they mostly had control of at halftime. The Vikings, meanwhile, dominated the St. Louis Rams last week but had the air sucked out of their tires earlier this week when star running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse. The legal matter is bigger than football, but from a purely football standpoint, Peterson won't be on the field when the Patriots come to town. What we thought was a bolstered New England defense has something to prove in Week 2, while the offense looks to rebound from a very faulty second half that saw a swarmed Tom Brady.

What to watch for (links):
- Will Vikings coach Mike Zimmer stifle the Patriots the way he did last year as defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals?
- How does the absence of Peterson affect how the Patriots defend the run?
- Can the Patriots' special teams unit contain Vikings returner Cordarrelle Patterson?
- How do the Patriots fill the void of linebacker Jamie Collins?
- What will the Cassel-vs.-Patriots dynamic look like?
- Where does tight end Rob Gronkowski go from here in his continued bounceback from injury?

Injury report:
Saturday, the Patriots downgraded linebacker Jamie Collins, center Ryan Wendell and defensive end Michael Buchanan to out; Vikings defensive starters safety Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd are questionable.

Other tidbits from the week:
The Vikings were forced to re-shuffle their offensive backfield with the Peterson event; Sunday will be the first time the former Patriot Cassel and his old mentor Brady will face off.

Our picks:
Dan: Patriots 28, Vikings 20
Sean: Vikings 30, Patriots 24
Nick: Patriots 30, Vikings 20

Head-to-head recent history:
The Patriots won the last meeting between the teams, a 28-18 decision in New England. They've won the last three matchups with the Vikings and hold a 7-4 edge in the overall series.

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