The Vikings are finally back home this Sunday when they host the Cleveland Browns in the 2013 home opener. After a 0-2 start with losses at Detroit in Chicago, the Vikings need to rebound are looking to get on the winning track by defeating the Browns who are also winless.
These are five things to watch for as the Vikings take on the Browns.
1. Pressure on Ponder and his passing game to improve
Different week, same headline unfortunately. Ponder has to start showing improvement in the passing game in order for the Vikings to get on winning roll. The second half of last week’s game in Chicago was a good start and nearly got the Vikings the win. But the first half was not as good and the Vikings still lost. A pick six thrown by Ponder in the second quarter was a major turning point in the game not to mention the Vikings offense couldn’t find a way into the end zone late in the game with a 1st and goal from the 6 – both of those outcomes weighed heavily for the Bears 31-30 victory. The Vikings area of improvement for this need to focus on: red zone scoring which was 0-3 last week, completion percentage for Ponder his is 58.6% this season and turnovers the Vikings have seven this season, the second-most in the league.
2. Adrian Peterson and Trent Richardson
**Note- Trent Richardson has been traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round draft pick. They will be playing against a backup running back on Sunday **
No matter if you’re at Mall of America Field or at home fans will be in for a treat to a pair of great running backs this Sunday – reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson and Cleveland’s Trent Richardson. Both of them are known for their punishing running styles, but both runners can also breakaway with their speed. That is often not seen in today’s “pass-only” NFL. Teams often prioritize passing over running but in this game you will see the run game up close and personal.
What is more special about this game for Peterson is that he only needs 63 yards to surpass Jamal Lewis for 10th on the list of most rushing yards in a running back’s first seven seasons. As for Richardson he had 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie last season, and after rushing for just 105 yards in his first two games this season you can tell he is ready to get on the fast track. Both team’s defensive front sevens have a huge challenge this week in stopping these two powerful and determined runners.
3. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden will not play
Brandon Weeden will not play this Sunday in what would have been his first appearance against the Vikings. Weeden injured his right thumb in last week’s loss at Baltimore and is a right-handed quarterback. The Browns have announced that their third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer will start this Sunday. Clevland has opted to go with the less experienced Weeden over Campbell who has 71 career starts and came if for Weeden in the fourth quarter after against Baltimore when Weeden hit hus thumb on a teammates helmet.
Hopefully the Vikings can capitalize on the less experienced Weeden and force him to make mistakes.
4. More opportunities coming for Cordarrelle Patterson on offense
In Week 1 against Detroit, rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was on the field for just five offensive snaps. Everyone hoped that when we played in Chicago that the Vikings would use Patterson on the field more. Patterson was on the field for more, but only for on more snap. According to what Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday that number would change dramatically.
“We’re going to get that rectified,” Frazier said. “He definitely deserves to be on the field more. He’s shown that in the few snaps he’s gotten in the first two ball games. Hopefully, everything being equal, that should not be a part of the conversation next week. We want to get him on the field. He’s one of our explosive players for sure. We see what he does when he gets the ball in his hands so we have to get him on the field.”
5. Can Vikings solve Cleveland’s odd-man front?
After facing even-man fronts to begin the season from Detroit and Chicago who ran a 4-3 defensive scheme, the Vikings are going to looking at an odd-man front when the Browns come to town. This is not a new challenge for the Vikings, but it does represent a new dynamic in preparing for an opponent this season. A few of key personnel in the Browns defense include: nose tackle Phil Taylor, who comes in at 6-3, 335 pounds and anchors the defense in the middle; inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, an eight-year veteran with four seasons of 100+ tackles; and outside linebacker Paul Kruger, signed away from Super Bowl-champion Baltimore this offseason to provide pass rush and stout run defense off the edge. The Vikings offensive line, in combination with the fullbacks and tight ends, will enter Sunday with a good plan on how to handle the Browns defensive attack. The question is: Can they execute it?