On Sunday, Minnesota Needs Strong Performances at DE, Kicker, and in The Secondary

Danielle Hunter
Nov 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates after a sack during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost here, folks. Our Minnesota Vikings start their season on the road tomorrow at noon against the Cincinnati Bengals. I imagine he wants to win every game, but Mike Zimmer must really want this one. He was their DC for years. What do we need to do to win? For the Vikings to be successful, they’ll need to get pressure off the edge, nail their field goals, and contain Cincinnati’s strong collection of receivers.

MN’s DEs vs. CN’s OTs

I’m looking forward to this battle. PFF is more interested in the matchup between Minnesota’s DTs and Cincinnati’s iOL. I understand that their guards and center will likely be overmatched by Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce, but it’s the edge pressure that I want to see. Perhaps it’s simply because there was so much uncertainty around Hunter throughout the offseason or maybe it’s the return of Everson Griffen. Regardless, I’m excited to see Minnesota generate pressure off the edge.

Hunter and Griffen are going to get the chance to go against Riley Reiff (PFF’s 38th tackle last season) and Jonah Williams (PFF‘s 44th tackle last season). This is an advantage for Hunter & Friends. Griffen, D.J. Wonnum, and Stephen Weatherly will all get significant snaps at DE. They should all be productive.

We’ll go on to discuss the challenge that those WRs present, but it’s safe to say that a central part of improving in pass coverage starts up front. We need to generate pressure early and often. In 10 games last season, Joe Burrow completed 65.3% of his passes for 13 TDs and 5 INTs. He did this while getting demolished behind a lousy offensive line. If they can show that the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line still has a long way to go, our Minnesota Vikings will be well-positioned to snag Win #1.

Greg Joseph vs. Purple Fate

I’ll admit I’m a little nervous about the kicking situation.

During the preseason, Joseph was somewhat underwhelming, largely because of his two missed field goals from 50+. We all know that Zim tends to favor a relatively conservative approach. He’s very happy to grind out wins, playing the field position game with a stifling defense and steady special teams. Well, Greg Joseph is going to be a big part of the equation here.

One could easily envision a scenario where Minnesota gets caught off guard in Week 1. Perhaps Cincinnati’s young talent is more formidable than we realize. Perhaps we find ourselves in a difficult road game heading into the fourth quarter. If it’s that kind of game, we’ll need Joseph to be sharp. When Daniel Carlson was our kicker, we didn’t win that Week 2 Green Bay game because of several missed kicks. That loss ended up being costly when we were pushing for the playoffs late in the year. Every game matters, especially for a true borderline team when it comes to the playoffs.

I expect Zim to be conservative with Joseph. If there’s a chance for a 50+ FG, I imagine Zim will punt or go for it on 4th down unless the team absolutely needs the points. Joseph needs to be crisp on his short and medium field goals.

The Vikings Secondary vs. The Bengals Receivers

Ja’Marr Chase seems to be feeling confident:

Minnesota has taken notice:

In all seriousness, though, Minnesota’s defensive backs are going to need to play well. The first challenge rests in the simple fact that we have so many new starters. Our top 3 corners – Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, and Mackensie Alexander – are all FA additions (in fairness, Alexander is returning). Partner that reality with Xavier Woods being one of the starting safeties and it won’t be surprising if there are a few communication issues that lead to blown coverages.

Furthermore, the Bengals have some legit talent. For some reason, Chase feels like he can guarantee a win even though he has never played an NFL snap. Even if Chase struggles, the Bengals will put forward Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, both of whom are excellent receivers. Higgins finished 32nd and Boyd 35th in PFF‘s WR rankings last season. That’s within the context of brutal OL play and a rookie QB who was eventually lost for the year. They’re an impressive pair. If Chase is even pretty good, Minnesota’s DBs will have their hands full.

The opening point, then, takes on added significance. We need our defensive line to be dominant. We’ll also need our secondary to show they’re capable of shutting down an underrated collection of receivers.

Vikings vs. Bengals Prediction

I’ve been consistent on this one: our Minnesota Vikings should win their Week 1 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Does that mean they will? Who knows. There’s a reason they play the game. All I know is that Minnesota is the far superior team. Generally speaking, the better team wins. Oh, don’t forget it’s an odd year, so we should be back to being a good team. The Vikings, in other words, should be a difficult team to beat.

Offseason Prediction: Vikings 31 – Bengals 20

Updated Prediction: Vikings 31 – Bengals 17

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