By: Russ Goldman
Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Jeremy Fowler who is the Vikings beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Jeremy was nice enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who covers the opposing team on a daily basis.
Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming Vikings Game with Jeremy Fowler Of The St. Paul Pioneer Press.”
1. The Vikings are 2-4 so far this season, which is certainly very different compared to last year’s team. What do you think is the cause for the tough beginning in regards to how things have gone so far?
There are several factors playing into the poor start, but the biggest culprits: Favre’s turnovers, the offense’s slow starts and the lack of quarterback pressure from the defensive front. Pound-for-pound, the defense is playing inspired football despite a combined 2.5 sacks from Jared Allen and Ray Edwards on the edge. But no defense can survive a quarterback who turns it over 14 times in six games, especially when opponents capitalize with 51 points off those turnovers. The offense hasn’t scored a touchdown on the first two drives of the first six games, forcing Favre to improvise late in the game.
2. There has been talk here in New England about which Viking quarterback would be a better match-up for the Pats. From a Viking perspective, is the team better off with Brett Favre or Tavaris Jackson starting at quarterback this Sunday?
If Favre can somehow limit the turnovers, then it’s no question he’s the better option than Jackson. But at least Jackson can manage the game, throw a couple of screen passes and protect the football. Put it this way: I’d rather have Favre in the fourth quarter, but Jackson gives them a safer game plan and, thus, a better chance to win.
3. On offense, the Vikings running game is still one of the best in the league. The question mark still seems to be the passing game. How much has the trade for Moss improved the passing game?
It’s certainly helped, but I’ve seen Favre force several intermediate-range throws to Moss’ direction that result in interceptions. Moss and Favre always wanted to play together, but Moss got Favre too late in the quarterback’s career. The Vikings probably need to take more shots downfield to Moss, who, at worst, can play defense on the ball and prevent an interception on those lobs. Right now he’s a possession receiver without a catch longer than 37 yards with the Vikings this year. He’s capable of much more production. In short: He helps, but not as much as advertised so far.
4. On defense, what do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses for the Vikings after what you’ve seen so far this season?
The Vikings still have a stout run defense, ranked sixth in the league after four consecutive years of a No. 1 or No. 2 ranking. The Patriots will have to work for every inch inside. But the biggest strength so far has been the versatility of the linebackers, particularly outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who leads the team in tackles (65) and tackles for loss (seven), and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Both are effective in base or nickel coverage. The secondary has battled injury, but throwing to cornerback Antoine Winfield’s side is still generally ineffective for opponents, especially on short routes.
5. And finally, what do you feel will be the key match-up to watch for between these two teams?
It’s got to be Moss vs. the Patriots secondary. I assume rookie Devin McCourty will cover Moss, and McCourty’s a promising, athletic corner. But Moss has shown in the past that when he’s inspired, nobody can cover him consistently. Returning to Foxborough should suffice.
Jermy Fowler’s Prediction: Patriots 24, Vikings 17
Patriots are too tough at home, and even if Favre plays, there’s no guarantee he can be effective on that fractured heel so soon — at least not at this age.
A special thanks to Jeremy for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him on twitter at @VikingsNow.