Saturday, October 8, 2016

Vikings vs. Texans Preview

Photo: Bleacher Report

The Minnesota Vikings will continue their regular season slate as they host the Houston Texans on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Daniel House previews the matchup and highlights five areas of emphasis. 

Updated: October 8th, 2016 6:42pm

By: Daniel House

The Minnesota Vikings will continue their regular season slate as they host the Houston Texans on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Texans enter the game following a close win over the Titans. Their lone loss this season came during a 27-0 blowout against a depleted New England Patriots team on Thursday Night Football. The Texans have some playmakers on offense, a talented group of cornerbacks, and an emerging quarterback at the helm. The Vikings could be without Stefon Diggs, which means wide receivers like Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson will need to step up. Also, it increases the importance of running the ball well and playing good defense. Houston is a talented team that hasn’t reached their full potential yet. The Vikings will need to perform well if they want to improve to 5-0 heading into the bye week.

For more, take a step inside my game preview:

Watch for Lamar Miller
The Vikings need to keep their eyes on Houston’s newest running back. The Texans signed Lamar Miller in free agency and he has been prominently featured in their scheme. Miller has accumulated the fourth-most yards in the league. He is averaging 87.75 yards per game, but has yet to reach the end zone. Miller is a very patient runner who uses his vision to create yardage. He isn’t always looking for the big play and runs very hard. Miller accounts for 36% of the Texans’ total red zone rushing attempts and is featured heavily in their offense. The Vikings are allowing the eighth-fewest rushing yards to opposing offensive units, but surrendered 105 yards to Carolina in Week 3. It will be important for the Vikings defense to tackle well and limit the amount of big-play opportunities for Houston. Last week, Minnesota had some moments where they tackled poorly and they will need to clean it up this week. In Week 4, Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien took over the play-calling duties. We should start to see Houston becoming more comfortable during this transition. O’Brien likes to utilize his playmakers and keep the tempo fast. He definitely has the personnel to perform his offense effectively and when they click, they could be very dangerous.

Pressuring Brock Osweiler 
The Vikings need to put pressure on Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler as much as possible. He has some mobility, but isn’t a major threat to escape the pocket and cause trouble. When Osweiler can step into the pocket, he delivers the ball with good accuracy and touch. If the Vikings can bring different stunts and disguises up front, they can pressure Osweiler and force him into mistakes. He already has thrown six interceptions through four weeks and has made some poor decisions. Mike Zimmer will surely scheme Osweiler to get him confused and frustrated. The Vikings defense has caused headaches for opposing offensive units and they can create turnovers against an offense that has been quite undisciplined this season.

DeAndre Hopkins is due, but Fuller is a threat
Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was held to just 1 catch for 4 yards last week against Tennessee. However, he has accumulated 50+ yard performances in each of his first three games, including 113 yards in Week Two. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes will be tasked with stopping Hopkins, who has big-play potential when he is incorporated in the game plan. Not to mention, rookie Will Fuller has been a dynamic weapon for Houston. Coming out of Notre Dame, Fuller was a vertical threat, but had trouble consistently catching passes. This year, he has been better. He has tallied two 100+ yard performances and is averaging 80.75 yards per game. Fuller gets open consistently and can take the top off the defense with his speed. Fuller is also threat as a punt returner and housed a 67-yard touchdown last week. The Vikings secondary will need to put together a solid performance like they did against the Giants last week.

Running the ball on Houston
The Houston Texans run defense has been leaky over the first few games. Houston has surrendered 125.5 yards per game to opposing running backs. The Vikings have had trouble getting their running game going this year. A matchup against a poor run defense could get them back in a rhythm. The only way to maximize the potential of the offense is by running the ball better. It helps construct a better balance and flow in games. The offensive line needs to get a better push to open up lanes for the running backs. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata can create yardage, but not to the extent they have been asked to do so recently. Houston has been performing poorly against opposing running backs and this is the chance for Minnesota to get back on track and improve their weaknesses on the ground. With Stefon Diggs likely out (groin), other wide receivers will need to step up and the running game will be even more important.

Protecting Sam Bradford 
Quarterback Sam Bradford needs time to make throws, but more importantly, he is the one player who cannot get injured. Andre Smith won’t play this week, which means Jeremiah Sirles will get the start. Entering the season, if you guessed Sirles and Clemmings would start at the tackle spots for a game, you win a prize. Sirles performed well last week, but I’m still very skeptical. The offensive line hasn’t been cohesive this year and it is concerning. With a new player entering the mix every week, it is hard for them to establish some continuity. Houston is without JJ Watt, but they still have reached the quarterback a fifth-most 11 times. The Vikings offensive line will have their hands full and need to protect Sam Bradford if they want any shot to win.


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