Minnesota Vikings (0-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)
Vikings Allowing the Checkdown, Taking Advantage of Rivers’ Over Aggressiveness
The Vikings defense had a rough time against Aaron Rodgers in the loss to the Packers. Multiple times Rodgers was able to burn the younger Minnesota defenders on deeper passes, but the future hall of fame quarterback was able to do it safely. This week, the Vikings face Philip Rivers, who is known for two things, passing to his running backs and forcing throws into windows he probably shouldn’t.
In his Indianapolis debut, Rivers completed 17 passes to Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines out of the backfield. Add in the countless other running backs that were labeled receiving backs when Rivers played for the Chargers. And if you’re the Vikings, you’ll live with the checkdowns.
Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney need experience. The simpler the Vikings’ coaching staff make their duties over the course of the early season, the better the result. If Minnesota draws up a game plan that just has their cornerbacks focus on avoiding the deep plays that burned them against Green Bay it’ll be for the better.
Minnesota might go conservative in its defensive game plan, but the young corners shouldn’t be afraid to jump on a route. First round pick C.J. Henderson was able to read Rivers’ forced attempt to T.Y. Hilton and picked it off for the Jaguars. Going forward those calculated risks are the improvements you want to see out of the young Minnesota secondary.
The one thing that might hurt Minnesota instead are the blitzs. Frank Reich got creative with his screen game against Jacksonville having Taylor and Hines in the backfield for this 35-yard gain for Taylor. Rivers has plenty of experience and if he picks up an upcoming blitz, one of these screens could turn into a big gain.
Reich is one of the best play callers in the NFL. In the play against the Jaguars, Hines’ motion is able to draw the attention of four Jaguar defenders, including two in the middle. By the time they realize Taylor is the intended receiver on the screen, it’s far too late. These are the types of motions the Vikings can’t be sucked into.
Detroit Lions (0-1) @ Green Bay Packers (1-0) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)
Lazard and Valdes-Scantling Continue to Make Plays
Last season, the Green Bay Packers swept the Detroit Lions despite not leading for a single second. In each game, the offensive attack for the Packers was inefficient. Davante Adams missed one of the contests, but the biggest struggles came from Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison’s inability to separate against the Lions’ heavy man-coverage scheme.
Certainly this year should be easier for Green Bay with the departure of Darius Slay as well as Justin Coleman and likely Desmond Trufant out due to injury on Sunday. However, for Rodgers and the Packers to continue to display the fireworks they did against the Vikings, the receiving options not named Adams have to continue to produce. Lazard and Valdes-Scantling each created long plays for Rodgers by winning one-on-one matchups.
Can the pair do it against Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah — who’ll be making his NFL debut if healthy. It’ll depend on their play making ability.
On the short touchdown pass caught by Lazard, he gets bumped off his break twice. However with Rodgers rolling out to his right, Lazard continues to fight and creates enough space for a throwing window.
In the clip below from the Packers’ win over the Lions in Week 17, Valdes-Scantling gets nudged off the line and never creates separation leading to an incomplete pass. It’s the amount of plays the wide receivers outside of Adams can make that will dictate how good Green Bay’s offense truly is.
New York Giants (0-1) @ Chicago Bears (1-0) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)
Another Test for Jaylon Johnson
Jaylon Johnson, the second round pick from Utah, surprised many with his excellent performance against the Lions in his debut. Now he faces a talented receiver core from the New York Giants.
Darius Slayton had an excellent performance on Monday Night Football against a top end Steelers defense. Daniel Jones has plenty of weapons to throw to with Sterling Shepard, potentially a healthy Golden Tate, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram as well.
Johnson’s debut included two pass break ups, one to clinch the victory on the last play of the game. Another came on a red zone throw from Matthew Stafford. Johnson recognized where the ball was headed and nearly came up with the interception.
The rookie was rated the seventh best cornerback by PFF last week. If Johnson gives the Bears a trustworthy option across from Kyle Fuller, it moves the Chicago defense closer to its 2018 form.