Earlier this week we identified 3 key matchups to today’s game in Cleveland. But while you’re keeping an eye on those individual matchups, here are 5 other elements of the game to pay particular attention to that will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the game.
1. Penalties – The Vikings had penalty issues during the preseason – 40 penalties were enforced against the Purple for 286 yards. You can bet this was addressed by head coach Brad Childress as he and his team prepared for Week 1. Also keep in mind that holding calls are a point of emphasis for NFL officials this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how rookie Phil Loadholt and 1st-year starter John Sullivan fare in Game 1.
2. Adversity – One team has to deal with adversity first, and it’ll be interesting to see how that team responds. Either the Vikings will encounter it early as a road team playing in a hostile environment, or the Browns will face it with a young Brady Quinn at the helm and the league’s top run defense lining up on the other side.
3. The Vikings Secondary – Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson form the Vikings new starting safety tandem. It goes somewhat unnoticed, but the starting safeties must play off of each other and complement one another well. It’ll be interesting to see how Williams and Johnson perform for an entire game in the regular season. We’ve seen them in the preseason and there didn’t appear to be any major issues, but now the bullets are live and the games really count. Veteran Darren Sharper became expendable this season because Johnson was in the fold, but now he must perform well on the field and show the coaching staff and personnel staff that he is worth the 2nd-round billing.
4. The Browns 3-4 Defense – Cleveland uses the 3-4 alignment as their base defense, something the Vikings have tried to familiarize themselves with over the preseason. The tricky part about this defense is that there are only 3 down linemen, but on most plays there will be more than 3 defenders attacking the line of scrimmage. The offensive line and QB Brett Favre need to identify the attacking players and assign the proper blocking strategy. This is important in both the run game and the passing attack. Remember, Adrian Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record against the San Diego Chargers, a 3-4 defense.
5. 3 Key Matchups – There’s a reason the 3 matchups we pointed out are key; they will help determine the outcome of this game. DE Jared Allen vs. LT Joe Thomas and C John Sullivan vs. DT Shaun Rogers are vital matchups in this game, and both happen to be along the line of scrimmage. Something tells me this game is going to be very, very physical.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, John Sullivan, Madieu Williams, Tyrell Johnson
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