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The Vikings will return to action after the bye week for a home matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Daniel House previews the contest and gets you set for game day.
Updated: October 17th, 2015 10:15pm
By: Daniel House
The Vikings will return to action after the bye week for a home matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. They'll be looking to get back on track after dropping a closely contested matchup with the Broncos two weeks ago. The Chiefs come to town with a 1-4 record, having lost four consecutive games. Not to mention, they fell to the Chicago Bears 18-17 last week and lost star running back Jamaal Charles in the process. Nonetheless, the Chiefs still have plenty of weapons and a respectable defensive front at their disposal. Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin are their primary receiving threats through the air. Quarterback Alex Smith has struggled at times delivering passes and that has definitely hurt their offensive success. The Vikings will need to protect better on offense, while capitalizing on some of the Kansas City weaknesses on both sides of the ball. The next five games will be critical for the Vikings season and that stretch begins with a winnable game at home against the Chiefs.
Handling the Chief's defensive line
After allowing seven sacks two weeks ago to the Broncos defense, the Vikings offensive line has had a week to get back into a new frame of mind. They'll need to be ready for a Chief's defensive front that poses plenty of threats. T.J. Clemmings will have a tough matchup with Justin Houston, while Matt Kalil will be challenged with the duty of keeping Tamba Hali under control. In the interior, Dontari Poe might miss the game with a high ankle sprain, but Jaye Howard looked really good on tape last week. Kansas City has notched a respectable 11 sacks this season, including a pair last week against Chicago. If the Vikings want a chance to win this game, they will need to keep Teddy Bridgewater's pocket clean, so he can make the throws necessary to be successful. Against Denver, he didn't have much time to make any decisions, but he's proven that when he has it, he can get the job done.
Get the passing game going against Kansas City's secondary
No team has surrendered more passing yards per game (228.6 yards) than the Kansas City secondary. Quarterbacks have shredded their backend and teams have consistently been exploiting this weakness in the vertical passing game. Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, and Jarius Wright are all battling injuries and it's uncertain who will be ready to play on Sunday. It sounds like Wallace and Wright are more ready than Johnson. Nonetheless, Stefon Diggs, Cordarrelle Patterson, Adam Thielen could see an increased workload to compensate for these deficiencies. The receivers will be able to get open, but it again, all comes back to the way the offensive line performs. If the Vikings can have any type of passing game, they'll be able to set up the running game and eventually, the play action pass down the field. We haven't seen a performance where both the running and passing games have complemented each other well. If that can happen, this offense can develop another element. This week would be the perfect week to get this started, while coming off the bye against a porous Chief's secondary.
Keeping Maclin in check
The Vikings will need to be sure to keep Jeremy Maclin in check during this game. He has 100+ yard receiving games in two of his last three contests and he has been the most targeted Chiefs player in that stretch. Xavier Rhodes will be asked to handle this duty and he should be up for the task. Maclin is one of the only aerial weapons they have, but Alex Smith has had problems getting the ball to his receivers. Maclin is a vertical threat and has always been a player that continually can take the top off the defense. Rhodes needs to be physical and handle him at the line of scrimmage. Finally, the linebackers will need to do their best to prevent Travis Kelce from going wild. He is another target that has posted good numbers and is a matchup threat to keep an eye on.
Charles is out, but run defense is still important
The Chiefs lost their star running back Jamaal Charles to an ACL tear last week against Chicago. That doesn't mean the Vikings shouldn't be worried about stopping the run. The defense has been better in this avenue, but gave up the big play against Denver. Charcandrick West will most likely be handling the bulk of these carries. The Vikings have given up the fourth-most yards per carry to opposing running backs this season and they can't lose the game by way of Kansas City's running attack. If they can set up the run, their passing game will open and it will lead to a long day for the Vikings defense.
The Vikings haven't won a game following the bye week since 2009. Not to mention, they've been outscored 168-60 over that same stretch. Mike Zimmer said he felt last year's 21-13 loss to Chicago after the bye week could be prevented in 2015. He didn't give the team as much time off and Zimmer indicated they are very focused on the task at hand. These next five games will be critical and can impact the success of the 2015 season. All of the teams they will square off with during the next five matchups have a combined 7-18 record. The team really needs to take advantage of this opportunity.