Mon, 26 Oct 2020

Lunchbreak: ESPN Ponders Playmakers in Vikings-Titans Game

Minnesota Vikings
26 Sep 2020, 04:37 GMT+10

Lindsey Young

The Vikings will host the Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday in hopes of bouncing back from an 0-2 start to the season.

Kickoff is slated for noon (CT).

Minnesota, which has been banged up defensively, will have a tough task in an undefeated Tennessee squad led by veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill and powerful running back Derrick Henry.

ESPN's team reporters recently previewed each of the games scheduled for this weekend, with Courtney Cronin and Turron Davenport offering their thoughts on the Vikings-Titans tilt.

Cronin wrote the following regarding "what to watch for" on Sunday:

Will the Vikings offense be able to keep up with Tennessee's scoring pace? Minnesota's defense has struggled to get its opponents off the field, and the lack of opportunities for its offensive playmakers not named Adam Thielen has been noticeable. Is this the week when the offense leans heavily on running back Dalvin Cook, and can quarterback Kirk Cousins finally involve rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and/or tight end Irv Smith, Jr.?

Davenport offered his bold prediction for the game, predicting that Tannehill will throw for more than 300 yards against the Vikings defense.

That might not seem bold, but here's something to consider: Tannehill has finished with 300 or more passing yards only three times since taking over in Week 7 last season. Defenses are focused on stopping Derrick Henry, which presents [1-on-1] matchups for the receivers. Tannehill and the passing game should have the advantage against a depleted Vikings secondary in those situations.

As far as the "stat to know" for the ensuing matchup?

The Titans are seeking their first 3-0 start since 2008 (started 10-0 and finished 13-3), and the Vikings are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2013 (the last Vikings team to lose 10-plus games).

PFF spotlights 'meaningful rookie matchups' in Vikings-Titans matchup

Sunday's game will offer a look at intriguing rookies on both teams.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus took a look at "meaningful rookie matchups" in Week 3. For Minnesota's matchup against Tennessee, PFF's Michael Renner wrote the following:

We've got a good opportunity for a lot of rookie-on-rookie action here. Justin Jefferson has been operating primarily out of the slot for Minnesota, and that means he'll face a good deal of Chris Jackson. The UDFA cornerback has struggled, however, allowing eight catches from 12 targets for 81 yards and a score. We could also see Jefferson line up some outside against Kristian Fulton, who had a much better outing last Sunday as he allowed only one catch for nine yards with a gimme pick mixed in.

Vikings rookie corner Cameron Dantzler missed practice Wednesday [and Thursday] and may not go again. That means more Jeff Gladney, who needs to turn things around fast. Gladney earned a 37.9 coverage grade in his first game as a starter last Sunday, allowing six catches from eight targets for 76 yards and a score.

Through his first two NFL games, Jefferson has five catches for 70 yards, averaging 14 yards per reception.

Gladney started in place of Dantzler in Week 2 when the third-round pick was sidelined with a rib injury. Gladney, whom the Vikings drafted 31st overall, recorded six tackles against the Colts.

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