Saturday, October 3, 2015

Vikings vs. Broncos Preview

Image Courtesy of Brad Rempel USAT

The Vikings are trying to continue their winning ways as they head on the road for a matchup with the undefeated Denver Broncos. Daniel House previews the game and provides his five keys to victory.

Updated: October 3rd, 2015 9:00pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings are trying to continue their winning ways as they head on the road for a matchup with the Denver Broncos. Denver enters the contest undefeated after picking up wins over Baltimore, Kansas City, and Detroit. Their defense has been rock solid, ranking first overall in the NFL after three weeks. Not to mention, their offense has multiple weapons like Demaryius Thomas and Emmaunel Sanders through the air. Oh yeah, and Peyton Manning is their quarterback too. The Vikings will need to win road games if they want to begin competing in the league. They are 5-18-1 over the last three seasons away from Minnesota. Winning in Denver won't be easy against a team that has notoriously played well at home. In order to be victorious, the Vikings will need to execute in all three phases of the game.

Here are my five keys to a Vikings win over the Broncos:

Getting after Peyton Manning

The Broncos offensive line is out of sorts and the Vikings defensive line needs to capitalize. Ryan Harris will be switching over to left tackle to replace Ty Sambrailo while Michael Schofield will  make his NFL debut at right tackle. That's good news for a Vikings defensive line that has been performing well over the last two weeks. Peyton Manning is a hall-of-fame quarterback and can't have ample time to make decisions in the pocket. With the offensive line injuries, the Broncos certainly won't be dialing up deep drops for Manning, but the defensive line still needs to pressure him into throwing before he wants to. It will be very interesting to see Mike Zimmer's defensive approach and how aggressive he is when orchestrating packages to stop Manning.

Everson Griffen had a big game last week and both Sharif Floyd, along with Linval Joseph will need to continue their interior dominance. The Broncos have had trouble running the ball and relied heavily on the passing game to knock off Detroit last week. Denver will try to hit on short passes to keep the Vikings secondary off balance. The defensive backs will need to be aggressive as they try to connect on more crossing routes and slants across the field. If Manning has time to orchestrate drives, it could be a long day for the Vikings defensive unit. 

Establishing the running game

The last two games, Adrian Peterson rushed for over 100 yards and the Vikings won both contests. They've heavily relied on the legs of Peterson, but will need to be able to pass the ball tomorrow. Denver has the sixth-best run defense in the league and will force Teddy Bridgewater to pass more. However, the Vikings can't get away from running the ball well. If they can establish some yardage on the ground, it will open up the passing game for Bridgewater to make plays. With a very solid secondary and a dominant front-seven, the Vikings offense will have their hands full as they try to move the ball. Adrian Peterson is starting to return to his natural form and will need to run it well if the Vikings have any chance to knock off the Broncos on the road. 

Moving the ball through the air

The Vikings have passed for just one touchdown this season, but that will have to change in Denver. It won't be easy against a Broncos pass defense that hasn't allowed a single passing touchdown all season. As I said earlier, the Vikings must run the ball well to set up the pass. Not to mention, they need to get into a rhythm by completing short and intermediate passes. Teddy Bridgewater is the type of quarterback who needs to complete some passes down the field to get into a groove. Charles Johnson has been ruled out for this game, which means rookie Stefon Diggs could see his first action of 2015. Mike Wallace will be targeted frequently as the Vikings look to extend the field off of play action. With Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby holding down the fort for Denver in the secondary, Teddy Bridgewater and his wide receivers will need to make some difficult plays. 

Handling Denver's pass rushers

Norv Turner has been reiterating all week that the Vikings must be able to handle the pressure of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller off the edge. This week, Turner was saying that Miller might have one of the quickest first steps in the league. T.J. Clemmings and Matt Kalil will both need to be prepared for this huge challenge. The pocket needs to be clean for Teddy Bridgewater to step into his throws. Denver already has a tough secondary and poor protection would only add more stress to the Vikings offense. The offense has already been structured to chip more with tight ends to prevent this, but playing against Denver might lead to more of this. 

Winning on the road

The Vikings are 5-18-1 over their last three seasons on the road. That trend has to change if they want to make the playoffs. Teams who can't win on the road have a difficult time winning enough games to contend in this league. This is the perfect time to make a statement in a road game against a quality opponent like the Denver Broncos. However, winning at Sports Authority Stadium is a task for any team, especially when the Broncos have a hall-of-fame quarterback and a solid defense at their disposal.

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