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Game Preview: Vikings at Bears

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
Novemer 17th, 2018
photo: vikings.com

An important NFC North showdown this weekend as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in prime time on Sunday Night Football. This game will be on everyone’s radars as it’s likely one of these two teams will win the division.

The Vikings must play a clean, near perfect game to go into hostile Soldier Field and come out with a win. Three things must happen if they want a chance against these surprisingly legit Bears.


1) Shut Down Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack is healthy again. Mack sacked Matthew Stafford twice, and looks to keep building momentum on his defensive player of the year type campaign. The Vikes will be without their best blocking TE David Morgan, but should likely get back their best offensive lineman, Tom Compton. Expect them to double, or even triple Mack to slow him down. With the Bears defense, it’s pick your poison. Luckily for Minnesota, we have a certain quarterback by the name of Kirk Cousins who has an “elite” ability of getting the ball out extremely quickly. That doesn’t come without the ability of WRs Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen getting open incredibly quick.


2) Establish Run Game

The run game has definitely been disappointing this year but as of late it has shown signs of a rebirth. The return of Dalvin Cook proved to of the utmost importance as even though he was on a snap count he rushed for 89 yards on 10 attempts. He seemed to have a certain explosiveness about him that I don’t think I have seen since before his ACL tear last year. He looked like a completely different player than the Dalvin we had seen in the first couple of weeks or even in the Rams game when he was playing with a hamstring injury. If the Vikings want to have more time in the pocket facing one of the best defensive lines a good idea would be to utilize both Murray and Cook early to help set up play action fakes to help Kirk buy some much needed time to throw to his weapons.


3) Keep Trubisky IN the pocket

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is second in the league among quarterbacks in rushing yards with 320 and 3 TDs. Matt Nagy and the Bears frequently call run plays which are well executed and which move the chains. It is reminiscent of a high school football offensive play, but it works. The Vikings are the third best run defense in the league right now and with a possibility of getting Barr back, they might just get better. Regardless, the big men up front must close up the holes and let Trubisky try to beat us from the pocket. 

Players to Watch

Harrison Smith

No one really talks about Harrison Smith, but he’s always lurking. If you’re a quarterback, the one person to really look for on the field is Smith. He’s a game changer and head coach Mike Zimmer knows just how to utilize him. Everyone remembers how Trubisky’s first career start turned out: a game changing interception by Smith to set up a Kai Forbath field goal. On Sunday, I would expect Smith to make some kind of game changing play because his presence is ALWAYS felt in big games. After all, he is the only player to have intercepted Drew Brees this season. Smith will also be tasked with covering Bears TE Trey Burton and, as usual, helping out with the many, quick offensive weapons such as WRs Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, and Taylor Gabriel. It’s always fun to see what the “Hitman” can do.


Anthony Miller

Who is Anthony Miller? He is a rookie taken 51st overall in the draft who the Chicago Bears had liked so much, they traded away their 4th and 7th round selections to move into the late second round to pick him up. Though he is just a rookie, and like other rookies he has had his share of struggles, he has been very impressive as of late. In his last game vs the Lions, he recorded 122 yards on 5 receptions with 1 touchdown. The one knock on this explosive rookie is that he has dropped the ball far too often. As of late, the drops have decreased as he builds a rapport with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. As Miller plays most of his snaps in the slot, it is safe to say that we will see him line up against third year corner Mackensie Alexander.

Predictions
Preet: Vikings 27- Bears 21
Tanishka: Vikings 26- Bears 20

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Evaluating Positions

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
November 12th, 2018
photo: Bruce Kluckhohn



The Minnesota Vikings have played nine games this season and the sample size is may finally be large enough to give each position group a grade. The Vikings offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league, and the Vikings defense is slowly becoming as, if not more, dominant than they were last year.


Quarterbacks (A-)

Kirk Cousins has proved why the Vikings brought him to Minnesota instead of keeping any of the three signal callers they had last year. (For reference, Teddy Bridgewater is a backup quarterback, Sam Bradford has been benched then cut, and Case Keenum is having a below mediocre performance in Denver). Cousins has been there even when the defense hasn’t. He made an impressive comeback in Green Bay and kept the Vikes in the Rams game. The 30 year old quarterback has been just as advertised: accurate deep ball passer, able to stand in pressure, and...low awareness. Cousins has a league leading of 8 fumbles. Although all of them aren’t his fault, some have been turning points of games. Fumbles or not, Cousins is a solid player in a previously revolving quarterback room.


Running Backs (B-)

Minnesota essentially has two starting tailbacks in Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook. They couldn’t run the ball the first four weeks, but after the Vikes got a couple offensive linemen back, Dalvin Cook healthy, and the Tay Train going, there’s been plenty of improvement. The run game may not be where Minnesota wants it, but the recent signing of Ameer Abdullah from the Lions brings a special Jerick McKinnon like dynamic to the game. The balance has helped take pressure off of Kirk Cousins and chew time off the clock when needed to. I’d expect it to keep improving from here on out.


Wide Receivers (A)

The easiest grade to give since so far both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been flat out amazing. Adam Thielen has picked up this year from where he ended last and had a total of 8 consecutive games with 100 yards receiving breaking the record for consecutive 100 yard games to start the season and tying Calvin Johnson's record for most consecutive 100 yard games. Diggs hasn't been a slouch either. This year, he often draws coverage from the opponents number one corner and yet he still has nearly 600 yards in spite of the fact that he had missed the last game with a rib injury. The only real bone to pick with this position is the lack of a true number three receiver. Former first round pick Laquon Treadwell has been on and off with a few bright spots such as his first ever NFL touchdown and some not so bright spots such as the drop that led to a HaHa Clinton-Dix interception. Treadwell also has a couple of dropped passes—most on the Vikings team. Free Agent pickup Aldrick Robinson has been good when utilized, with 7 receptions, 3 of which have been touchdowns. Another in this core includes CFL standout Brandon Zylstra, who has seen limited playing time on the offensive side of the ball with only one catch for 23 yards. Chad Beebe, a preseason standout on the team way of the practice squad, had a good debut vs the Detroit Lions with 3 receptions for 21 yards. If the Vikings want to improve in this area they need to establish a de facto number three receiver to take some of the workload off of Diggs and Thielen.


Tight Ends (C+)

Kyle Rudolph is having the best season of his career. He has 34 receptions for 349 yards and 2 TDs. While this doesn’t pop off the stats page, Rudolph has been a consistent “mattress” for Kirk Cousins to throw at—especially when in distress. The tight ends behind Rudolph haven’t had much production. David Morgan has been a key blocker for the Vikings, but he hasn’t played much as a receiving TE. Rookie Tyler Conklin hasn’t gotten playing time. In general, the tight ends haven’t impacted games as much as people thought they would in the offseason, given Cousins’ history with TEs.


Offensive Line (D-)

As usual, the Vikings offensive line has been the weakness of the team. They did essentially nothing in the offseason, but they drafted OT Brian O’Neill in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. O’Neill’s ceiling is the sky, and impressively he hasn’t given up a single sack this season. The rookie tackle was expected to be a project but was thrust into the starting lineup pretty early. Next to him is RG Mike Remmers who hasn’t played well at all. In his first season as a guard, he has given up the most pressures on the team. C Pat Elflein has not played as well as he did last year. A very small problem is his chemistry with his quarterback. The offense has had to deal with a couple of delay of game penalties lately because Elflein hasn’t been snapping the ball on no cadence snaps. He’s been pretty solid with the run ever since he returned from offseason surgery in Week 3. Next to Elflein is LG Tom Compton who has been the Vikes’ best player on the offensive line. Compton got injured vs the Jets and has missed the past two games. His determination and ability to protect his quarterback Kirk Cousins is admirable. In his place, Danny Isidora has played fairly well. He gave up two sacks to Sheldon Rankins of the New Orleans Saints, but other than that, his blocking last week opened up a few nice holes in the run game. Finally, LT Riley Reiff had a rough start this season. Poor play on Cousins’ blind side led to some strip sacks. Some were game changing and even game ending. After returning from his injury, though, Reiff played a solid game. Barring any injuries, I would expect the offensive line to start gelling together as we move through the crucial second half of the season.


Defensive Line (A- )

The defensive line has been incredible this year. No two ways about it. Even when they had lost their leader Everson Griffen, they didn’t regress to the level which most other teams would have. In fact, Stephen Weatherly who replaced Griffen played incredibly well. On the other side, Danielle Hunter has put most of the league on notice with a league leading 11.5 sacks with 3.5 of them and a fumble recovery touchdown coming vs the Lions. The two big men up front in Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson have also been amazing so far this season. Although most of their contributions are beyond the box score, they force the opposing QBs into the lap of Hunter and Griffen. Tom Johnson was a steal that the Vikings signed when Seattle cut him. In 7 games this season, Johnson has 2.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries, according to Pro Football Reference. Younger players like Jalyn Holmes and Jaleel Johnson are on the bench, helping keep the starting four fresh. When thrust into the lineup, they like the others manage to make an impact. Holmes and Johnson combined for 1.5 sacks this season. Also, everyone's preseason favorite Ifeadi Odenigbo is back in town and on the practice squad. The only reason this group doesn’t receive an A is because they weren’t able to get pressure vs the two biggest NFC powerhouse in the LA Rams and New Orleans Saints.Likewise, this defensive line rotation is what Mike Zimmer envisioned in the offseason—something similar to the 2017 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.


Cornerbacks (B)

The Vikings cornerback room is envious. They have three first round picks, and although Mike Hughes is on IR, he had some game changing plays the first six weeks for the season. Trae Waynes has played outstanding football after returning from his concussion, and Xavier Rhodes is slowly starting to look like the Xavier Rhodes we all know and love. Mackensie Alexander, who fought for the starting nickel job in training camp has been on and off. Some incredibly shut down plays give me hope, but other times Alexander just loses his receiver. A newfound pass rushing ability in Alexander has been key for the Vikings. Alexander had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in overtime which forced the Packers to punt. He also sacked Matthew Stafford in the Vikings franchise record setting afternoon on November 4th. Alexander has three sacks on the season. The undrafted rookie Holton Hill has been a stud for the Vikings. A mid-round talent that fell due to his off field issues has really stepped up in the absence of Xavier Rhodes and Mike Hughes. Speaking of Hughes, the rookie first rounder had a pick 6 in his first NFL game. Hughes also had a forced fumble vs the Rams. Hopefully he comes back even stronger next season. 


Safeties (B)

I think that it is safe to say that the Vikings have 5 starting caliber safeties on the roster. Harrison Smith is by far the best of the bunch and probably the best safety in the NFL right now (but since nobody other than Vikings fans know who he is he probably won’t be voted into the Pro Bowl but will make first team All-Pro). The only thing that is somewhat concerning about his play thus far is the occasional long pass he gives up in coverage. Andrew Sendejo is listed as safety number two, but so far he has been dealing with a groin injury that has sidelined him the last four weeks. In his place has been George Iloka, who was picked up in the middle of the preseason due to the Bengals cutting him. Iloka, who has worked with Mike Zimmer before has been exceptional filling in. Jayron Kearse has found new life in this team playing as a “big nickel” corner covering opposing tight ends and wide receivers. He has truly been one of the most improved players this year. Anthony Harris has seen the field sporadically so far this year, but he has been great when we see him on the turf. The only thing holding this unit back from getting an A are games like the Rams when they had gotten picked on. That was mostly a schematic problem, which Zimmer has fixed.


Linebackers (C)

The Vikings linebackers have been disappointing thus far. Minnesota payed Eric Kendricks big money in the offseason and he’s still a tackling machine, but I don’t believe his is earning his contract. A couple of miscues on running backs (especially the WHEEL ROUTE) and not being in position has given up some explosive plays that didn’t happen last year. Meanwhile, Anthony Barr hasn’t been playing like he wants a contract next year. I still don’t understand why the Vikes would draft a 3-4 LB in a 4-3 system, but it definitely isn’t paying off. Other than Barr’s injury, and his rough start due to defensive scheme issues, he has played lights out. I wish Barr would be note utilized in rushing the passer, but I do like how Zimmer is using the 4th year LB. Eric Wilson, who has stepped in for Barr has done just alright. Notably, he wasn’t able to stop Kamara or Ingram at all, but thing could have been worse. I hope to see better play from this group as the season goes forward.


Kickers (D)

This year got off to a bad start with Blair Walsh 2.0 … sorry, I mean Daniel Carlson missing 2 field goals from 30 yards out which cost the Vikings the win over the Packers. After that horrendous showing, the fifth round pick was cut and the Vikings signed the second most accurate kicker in NFL history: Dan Bailey. So far, Bailey has been a bit confusing. Against Philadelphia, he missed two chip shots but later drilled a 50+ yard field goal to clinch the win. He seems to be very hot and cold with his kicking and hopefully he can heat up and regain his form that he had on the Cowboys.


Punter (B+)

Matt Wile is a nice upgrade over Ryan Quigley. Other than the blocked punt mishap at Lambeau Field, Wile has been punting and pinning opponents down well. This has been especially impressive in the sharp winds at MetLife Stadium, and Wile will have to continue this in the Windy City next week and in Foxborough against the Patriots.

The Vikings enter the important stretch of November and December games starting with the Windy City where they will fight for the division title. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this team plays through a tough schedule for a home playoff game.
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Game Preview: Saints vs Vikings

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
Ooctober 27th, 2018
photo: nola.com


“DIGGS, SIDELINE, TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE! VIKINGS WIN IT!” The Minnesota Vikings are slated to take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night football this week. This is a high stakes game with major playoff implications come January. The last time these two teams played, the whole world knows what happened. This time, the Saints come with heavy hearts to avenge not only one, but two losses at the hands of Mike Zimmer’s Vikings.


We’ll take you through a couple of matchups and a couple of players that should really highlight what these two teams are about and who to watch for come Sunday night.

Matchups to Watch:



  1. Adam Thielen vs PJ Williams  


Adam Thielen has taken the NFL by a storm this season. What’s special about him is that no matter what he always manages to get open. He could be going against the best cornerback in the league and straight out burn him. He could be double covered, but run creative routes to get open. He’s probably the most consistent piece on the Vikings offense.


Thielen also happens to spend the majority of his time in the slot. Due to this, expect the star wide receiver to be up against Saints slot corner PJ Williams. New Orleans’ pass defense has been lacking this season, allowing an average of 294 yards per game (28th in the NFL). To top that off, Thielen probably won’t be shadowed a lot by their number one corner Marshon Lattimore--who is expected to be on the miracle man Stefon Diggs.


In a likely shootout, Thielen’s production will be key. Can the receiver get over 100 yards for the 8th straight game this year? Saints fans would disagree, but for 7 weeks, Thielen has proved fans and players wrong all around the league.


  1. Vikings Linebackers vs Alvin Kamara


The Vikings will be without starting Pro-Bowl linebacker and team captain Anthony Barr on Sunday. Barr appeared to in pain after an injury to his hamstring against the Jets late in the game. This might have been the worst week for him to miss as the Vikings take on probably the best 1-2  punch in Kamara and Ingram Love him or hate him (mostly hate him), Kamara is a premier back in the league. He can do it all, whether it be running the ball up the gut or lining up in the slot. He can, and is willing to do anything for his team.


So how the question is, how will the Vikings defend against this do it all back who in just his second year has already become the focal point of this elite offense?


It all starts with the big men up front. The Vikings are hopeful to have a fully healthy defensive line for the first time since Griffen’s incident. It would have been a huge morale boost to get back their captain and one of the longest tenured players on the team. Another potential boost could be Linval Joseph, coming back after sitting the week out vs the Jets.


All the pressure will not be on just the starters as impact players like veterans Tom Johnson and Jaleel Johnson who also come off of the bench along with defensive ends Stephen Weatherly and Tashawn Bower. If the Vikings front four can get to Kamara and even Ingram early and slow them down, it might not expose unheralded players like Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson.


3. Michael Thomas vs The Vikings Secondary


If you’re a Vikings fan, you likely hate Michael Thomas. You have to respect what he does, but you don’t have to like him. I hate saying things like this, but Thomas did burn the secondary last January. He combined for a total of 7 receptions, 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.


This year, the Vikings may or may not be without Xavier Rhodes who is listed as
questionable with an ankle injury. Their cornerback depth is already low after losing Mike Hughes for the season. Minnesota will also not have starting safety Andrew Sendejo, but in his absence George Iloka has played well.


If Rhodes plays, he will likely be shadowing Thomas, but expect a little help from the safeties. Last week, everyone saw Rhodes and Harrison Smith’s chemistry with the tipped interception. If Rhodes doesn’t play, Trae Waynes will take over and cover Michael Thomas, and rookie Holton Hill, who recorded his first interception vs the Jets will rotate in the slot.

Players to Watch:



  1. Taysom Hill


Taysom Hill? Who is that? Every week, fans of teams opposing the Saints learn the hard way. Hill is a backup quarterback but he plays virtually every phase in football. He is a special teams God, but has seen some more playing time on offense this season. He can throw, he can catch, he can tackle, he can run, and he can block.

You can tell that Sean Payton is having fun adding more pages to his playbook due to Hill’s versatility. He had his first NFL touchdown in the blowout vs the Redskins and has thrown a couple of passes on offense.


Hill is a guy the Vikings must watch out for because you never know what he’s going to do or even when he’s going to be on the field. If anything happens to punter Thomas Morstead’s ribs this time, you know who is taking over.


  1. Jayron Kearse


Let be honest with ourselves. Many of us thought that after the signing of George Iloka, Jayron Kearse was going to be on the way out. Missing the first two preseason games definitely did not help his case. But in the final two games of the preseason, he showed enough to warrant his place on the team. In the first game, many people were surprised to see him get an extended run with the first team defense.


He has played like a man possessed in many of the games where he has seen the field. He has turned himself into a “Big Nickel” who can play in the slot vs tight ends and vs bigger wide receivers. If Rhodes is ruled out by the time you're reading this, expect to see Jayron Kearse getting even more snaps due to Mackensie Alexander likely moving outside to help the short staffed DB room.


Despite how much fun we had watching the Miracle and believe me it was the best moment in Vikings history, we need to put that aside. As Kyle Rudolph said today on an interview with FS1’s First Things First “That play and that game has nothing to do with the 2018 Minnesota Vikings playing the 2018 New Orleans Saints.”


Predictions
Tanishka: Vikings 38- Saints 30
Preet: Vikings 31- Saints 28

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How to Move Foward with Mike Hughes Out For the Season

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
October 15th, 2018
photo: vikings.com

Vikings 1st round pick Mike Hughes tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in their win over the Arizona Cardinals, leaving the team without a key part of their defensive back rotation. He will be placed on IR. This comes just one year after the Vikings top pick last year, Dalvin Cook, tore the exact same Ligament vs the Detroit Lions. In 2014, QB Teddy Bridgewater, another 1st round pick also tore his ACL in a non-contact drill during training camp.

The Vikings could essentially do a couple of things here. Keep reading to explore some of the potential options.

Free Agency

The Vikings take a huge blow in their defensive rotation with the loss of Hughes. As of now, they have 5 cornerbacks on the roster. The primary starters will probably be Rhodes, Waynes, and Alexander, with Kearse rotating in the slot. This is a solid group, but what happens when one of them gets injured? The depth will really be tested if the Vikings have to use promising rookie Holton Hill and veteran Marcus Sherels in the rotation.


To stay safe, Minnesota could look for a cornerback in free agency. This is probably not the route the Vikings will take with their minimal cap space, but don’t be surprised if slick Rick—GM of the Minnesota Vikings— figures something out.

One option might be Jeremy Lane. Lane was a 6th round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, and a part of the Legion of Boom. He would primarily be a depth player, and wouldn’t receive as much playing time as Hughes did.

Another option would be Robert McClain. McClain was drafted in the 7th round by the Carolina Panthers. He has played a lot of special teams as a punt returner and kick returner. This could prove useful for the Vikings since Hughes returned lots of kicks and they must fill that void.

Rely on the Depth

This is definitely the most likely option with Zimmer's scheme being notoriously hard to learn for newcomers.This is the even more likely when you think about the Vikings current cap situation. In all honesty, this might be the best option. I mean we didn't spend first round picks on Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes for nothing. With the recent emergence of former second round pick Mackensie Alexander in the slot, it looks as though the Vikings will still have a solid cornerback room. Alexander played the best game of his career on Sunday, which included a key pass breakup on 4th down, and a sack.


Jayron Kearse and George Iloka can also give depth playing a “Big Nickel” role which would match them up well vs receiving tight ends. We also cannot forget about return specialist Marcus Sherels, who also is a serviceable corner, along with promising undrafted rookie Holton Hill.

Patrick Peterson

Okay, hear me out on this one, I know it would sound like something out of Madden and it probably won't happen, but lets just go down this road for fun. The Cardinals are in clear rebuild mode and it is hard to see where Peterson 28, fits into these plans. I understand that with the Vikings cap space or lack thereof, this trade is borderline impossible.

To make this work, the Vikings would probably have to trade one of their defensive starters and a couple of picks. Trae Waynes could be an option, due to his inability to be consistent and stay healthy. Anthony Barr could be another option with his pro-bowl reputation and his fifth year option being 12.3 million dollars.

With Patrick Peterson making about 15 million dollars a year, the package would also likely need to include another starter like Andrew Sendejo. If they didn’t want to trade another starter, Minnesota could get Peterson to restructure his contract and they would probably need to include a couple of draft picks to line up with Arizona's plans of rebuilding.

This most definitely won’t happen, but man is if fun to think about a defense that has Xavier Rhodes and Patrick Peterson, two generational corners as their starters.

No matter what happens, we are praying for Mike Hughes to make a speedy recovery and will miss him on and off the field. On to New York to face the Jets. As always, SKOL.
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Players to Watch

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah (Savitra for Benwikere)
October 13th, 2018
photos: vikings.com and azcardinals.com

As the Vikings (2-2-1) take on the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) we thought it would be beneficial to give you all some insight on potential playmakers for either team on both sides of the ball, so you can be the smartest person in the room on Sunday afternoon.

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Christian Kirk

The rookie wideout has been off to a fast start so far this year averaging about 50 yards per game. This includes a 75 yard touchdown catch on the first play for scrimmage vs the 49ers. He was taken 47th overall out of the university of Texas A&M where in each of his 3 seasons, he got 900 plus yards receiving. It is likely that the rookie will be called upon this week with Larry Fitzgerald not at full strength.

Kirk will likely be lining up across from Trae Waynes who is coming back from a concussion which he had suffered in the 3rd quarter of the Rams game on a play where he gave up a 40 yard touchdown. We can expect to see an increase of targets and receptions as him and his fellow rookie quarterback Josh Rosen develop their chemistry.

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Stefon Diggs

It seems as if everyone is talking about Adam Thielen these last few weeks. The Vikings have another star wideout by the name of Stefon Diggs. Diggs hasn’t had any splashy games since the overtime tie in Green Bay, where he caught two touchdowns and a 2 point conversion. He has still been very productive and is seemingly always open.

OC John DeFilippo has been using Diggs, because of his speed, for handoffs and running plays. In the victory in Philadelphia, Diggs had 25 rushing yards, which mostly came from a handoff which went 20 yards on the left side of the field. He also had 91 receiving yards, and is on pace for his first ever 1,000 yard season.

The Cardinals have star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is one of the best in the game. Just like Xavier Rhodes on the VIkings, Peterson usually shadows the opposing team’s star receiver. This could be problematic with the Vikings who arguably have the NFL’s best receiving duo. Arizona could choose to pick on either Diggs or Thielen, but will probably let Peterson spend time guarding both of them.
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Bené Benwikere

Bené Benwikere isn't a household name by any stretch of the imagination. However he is still under his former defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes, who he worked with in Carolina. This knowledge of the system has helped him excel in Arizona. He has had an interception last week vs the 49ers and the week before that he caused a forced fumble vs the Seahawks. He has been incredible so far this year and the Cardinals will rely on him to keep one of Diggs or Thielen in check.

Benwikere has been red hot so far this being one of the better corners in the league and we can clearly see that his knowledge of Steve Wilkes and his defense has benefited him. He looks to continue this start where he will line up across from pro bowl corner Patrick Peterson though he is listed as questionable for the game.

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George Iloka
With the final injury report out on Friday, Minnesota’s starting strong safety, Andrew Sendejo, is listed as out with a groin injury. Next man up, as the Vikings luckily have strong depth at the safety position. During the offseason, Iloka inked a one year, $880,000 deal to return to his first defensive coordinator in the NFL.

Iloka’s knowledge of Mike Zimmer’s system should help him play well, considering he’ll actually get playing time this week which won’t completely be on special teams, alongside Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris.
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Chandler Jones

The reigning NFC defensive player of the week will look to continue his dominant play, terrorizing left tackles across the league. Last week against the 49ers, Chandler Jones had 6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. Jones will be going up against Rashod Hill, who usually starts at RT, but will be filling in for injured Riley Reiff.

Jones is quick on his feet and very frequently has his way spinning around the left tackle. Keep an eye out for him to make plays to keep the Cardinals in the game.
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Sheldon Richardson

Sheldon Richardson has become the monster he once was in his rookie year. After signing a one year 8 million dollar deal, Richardson has arguably been the most consistent defensive lineman on the Vikings. He has been a terror for the majority of quarterbacks he has faced when he lines up at the three-tech spot. Though an average fan may look at his season so far and see only the one sack and feel underwhelmed his impact has stretched beyond the box score, he has in many ways been the missing piece to the puzzle that Tom Johnson was not. Look for him and fellow defensive tackle Linval Joseph to have a big game vs a disappointing interior line of the Cardinals.

The Minnesota Vikings take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, October 14th at 1 PM EST.
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Preview: Vikings vs Cardinals

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October 13th, 2018
By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
picture: vikings.com

Keys to beating the Arizona Cardinals
The Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) come back home after 2 consecutive weeks on the road, a loss to the Rams and a win in Philly, to face the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) who are coming off a divisional win vs the Jimmy G-less 49ers. How do the Vikings beat the Cardinals and keep pace with the Bears and the Packers?

Avoid the trap

The Vikings are unquestionably the better of these two teams. There is little debate on that by either set of fans. The better team doesn't always win though. We saw that vs the Bills three weeks ago. After that game, the Vikings won't ever take a team with a rookie quarterback named Josh lightly. In this league, any team can beat another team on a given Sunday. In fact, it was the 4-12 Cardinals in 2003 who killed the Vikings playoffs hopes. The moral of the story: don’t underestimate any team in this league. As a wise man once said, “Finish every block. Finish every tackle. Finish every play, and finish the damn game.” The Vikings must follow this advice every game to have a successful season.

Protect Kirk Cousins 

This seems like a key every week. Although the Vikings quarterback is very good at avoiding the rush and making quick, efficient passes, Vikings fans can’t help but grimace every time Cousins hits the ground. The pass blocking has been way better than the run blocking, but the Vikings aren’t able to protect Cousins’ blind side. This has accounted for a couple of game changing fumbles this season. Take the Rams game, for example. The Vikings were down a touchdown and had almost a minute and a half to go down, score, and come away with the win. The protection and play on LT must get better to offer the rest of the offense a chance. As of right now, starting LT Riley Reiff has not practiced all week. He left the game vs Philadelphia in the first quarter and was replaced by T Rashod Hill, who will be going against star DE Chandler Jones.


Get the run game going
The Vikings still haven’t had a rushing touchdown. The current five week drought is the longest in franchise history. Starting RB Dalvin Cook practiced this week and is listed as questionable. It looks like he will play. Cook hasn’t played a full game since Week 2 vs the Packers when he got injured in overtime. Minnesota might have all four backs active on Sunday, allowing them to stay fresh.

Establishing the run game will also take some pressure off of Cousins. I would still expect the Vikings offense to primarily be an aerial attack, utilizing their two Ferraris on the outside in Thielen and Diggs.


Exploit the Cardinals interior line

The Cardinals have had struggles with the interior part of their line all season. Their starting center and guards have allowed a combined 40 pressures this season. This works perfectly for the Vikings stout defensive front, led by Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson who are looking to improve on their monster performance last Sunday. Mike Iupati has posted a grade of 24.3 grade on PFF and the center Mason Cole and guard Justin Pugh have posted equally abysmal grades of 31.5 and 48.3 respectively. This coupled with the facts that Josh Rosen the rookie starting quarterback for the Cardinals has posted a 30.3 passer rating when under pressure thus far. If the Vikings can get pressure with Joseph and Richardson early, it could lead to the young quarterback making some costly mistakes.

On the outside of the defensive line, both defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly, who is filling in for star defensive end Everson Griffen, have played outstanding. Hunter has had five sacks this season, one in each game, which is his longest streak. Weatherly had a sack vs the Bills, and a strip sack vs the Eagles. Expect them to keep up their production, even with the increased playing time.


Limit David Johnson

It is often said that a young quarterback’s greatest ally is his running back. If this is true, David Johnson is a great ally to have. Sure, he hasn't reached his 2016 level of productivity in his first season back off a wrist surgery. Sure, some of that is due to poor offensive line play and predictability in play calling, but he has to be respected by the defense just because of the potential threat he is. Look for the Cardinals to try to get the ball to him early and often on Sunday afternoon to establish a run game and potentially help Rosen buy more time with the play action fakes. If the Vikings can stop David Johnson early and put some points on the board, they can force Arizona to become more one dimensional, in order to play catch up, and pressure Rosen.


The Vikings hope to keep the momentum from their victory in Philadelphia last Sunday, and they hope to avoid another loss at home.



Predictions

Preet: Vikings 31- Cardinals 13

Tanishka: Vikings 30- Cardinals 14
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Revenge Game: Vikings at Eagles

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Image result for vikings eagles

October 6th, 2018
By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
Photo: nj.com

Can it all come together where it all fell apart?

The Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1) travel to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) at 3:25 PM (CT). This well anticipated revenge game will go down to the wire with two teams desperate for a win. The Super Bowl champions are coming off a heartbreaking 26-23 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, and the Vikings fell 38-31 to the red hot Los Angeles Rams.

The last time these two teams met was in the NFC Championship when the Vikings were blown out 38-7. This time things are a bit different. Both sides have different quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz, and both defenses are not performing to their full strength. The Vikings are looking to get some momentum on the season and come away with a season saving win. Five keys will help them do this.


1) Protect Kirk Cousins

The Eagles defensive line is arguably one of the best in the league. The Vikings offensive line is one of the worst. Let's just get this out of the way: the OL has been abysmal this year. They have given up 81 pressures through 4 games. The average OL in the NFL gives about 160 pressures a year. This means the Vikings are on track to give up roughly 320 pressures this entire year, which is the most ever since that stat has been recorded.  The OL held up pretty well vs the Rams (better than expected at least). Now we need to see what the interior linemen will do against Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett. Another interesting matchup in the trenches will be Riley Reiff vs Brandon Graham. Reiff has been disappointing this year, much like Graham, so it should be a matchup of the sleeping giants.

2) Establish the Run

So far the much anticipated return of Cook has been underwhelming. At the time of writing this article, he is listed as questionable. Cook did not practice until Friday, when he was limited. The Vikings have not had a 100 yard rusher so far this year. This coupled with that in the last two weeks Cousins has had to throw 105 passes in the last 2 games, due to the Vikings having to play catch up in the majority if those games. If the Vikings want a shot of winning, they have to commit to the run long term and make the play action pass effective for Cousins so he can buy more time. They also need to keep the Eagles alert with the play calling because despite how mediocre the Eagles secondary is, the Vikings OL may not hold up long enough for the passing lanes to open up. Be it the Chef or Tay Train, the Vikings must establish the run.

3) Exploit the Eagles Secondary

It doesn’t take a genius to tell that the Eagles defense hasn't been great so far. Last week they were abysmal in pass situations. For example, they let the Titans convert a 4th and 15 in overtime. They also allowed WR Corey Davis 161 yards and drew a couple of pass interference penalties. Vikings fans would have been salivating at the thought of what Diggs and Thielen would do to this secondary who are deprived of Safety Rodney McLeod. Thielen has started right where he left off last season becoming only the 3rd player to get 100 yards in the first 4 games. The only others being Isaac Bruce and Randy Moss, but keep saying Juju is the best number 19 in the NFL, Steelers fans. Thielen looks to continue this streak against 2nd year corner, who missed all but one game last year, Sidney Jones. Diggs has also been explosive thus far, putting up amazing numbers in three out of the four games so far. He will likely be matched up vs Jalen Mills. If the Vikings want to win they must expose the weak link of the defense. Also expect touchdown machine Aldrick Robinson to have another productive day, or at least give the Eagles another man to potentially worry about.

4) Fix the Coverage

The Vikings secondary has not played very well this season. The cornerbacks and safeties are letting receivers get open and are giving up on routes. Almost all of the Vikings opponents have done a good job isolating a single CB or even LB on their starting TE. The Vikings Safeties must dial in this week to help out the CBs and play tighter coverage. With the Vikings being down to only two DE’s, Minnesota should play LB Anthony Barr at DE, where he played extensively in college, given how much he has struggled in coverage. In exchange for Barr, the Vikings can put in Safeties George Iloka or Andrew Sendejo as a hybrid LB-S. This three safety set would help if they were able to drop Iloka in coverage and isolate Eagles TE Zach Ertz onto the hard-hitting Andrew Sendejo.

5) Generate Pressure

Minnesota has really struggled with play action, partly because the DL is not generating pressure, giving the QB lots of time, and letting the secondary slow down and allow receivers to get open. This year, when pressured Wentz has looked like a deer in headlights. The Eagles OL has looked shaky at best, allowing eight sacks in the last two games alone. The Vikings DL might lose their rotation since they will be without DE’s Everson Griffen (knee/non-injury related) and Tashawn Bower (ankle)  who are listed as out.

The Vikings have a couple of options here. They could use LB Anthony Barr on the line, or they could kick defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who has experience at the position, outside and put Tom Johnson back at defensive tackle.

To generate pressure, the Vikings could also blitz more. Safety Harrison Smith and LB Eric Kendricks are very good at getting past the OL and back to the quarterback. This would put Wentz into uncomfortable positions and force him to throw the ball away due to his limited mobility.

The Minnesota Vikings hope for a season turnaround and revenge for all the 38-7 jokes (Don't tell people on social media that you're a Vikings fan or else the boneheads from Philly will come at you, virtually throwing beer cans. Trust me, Vikings fans have been through worse--aka the 41-0 NFC championship vs the New York Giants. You don't hurt us). Although they are three point underdogs, the Vikings look to leave Lincoln Financial Field with the win.

Predictions:
Preet: Vikings 27 Eagles 23
Tanishka: Vikings 24, Eagles 19

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