After beating the Chargers last week 23-20 out in San Diego, the Patriots are back home this week for a match-up against the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium.  Before each Patriots game this season, as always here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory. 

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on Fox Sunday at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The Vikings are coming off a tough 28-24 loss on the road to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.  However, even with this loss, the Vikings are only a game back in the NFC North in the loss column. To keep pace Minnesota really needs to beat the Patriots, and this is a very talented team coming to Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

On defense, this unit is very stong up front. The defensive line is very good and the Pats will find it extremely hard to run against them. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are very active in the middle of this line. However, the Vikings also have two defensive ends that have the ability to get to Tom Brady. Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are very good at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The linebackers are very solid, led by E.J. Henderson. The weakness of this defense would be the defensive backfield. Antoine Winfield is still a pro bowl caliber cornerback, but New England should be able to take advantage of the rest of this unit.

On offense, they have a tremendous amount of talent at the skill positions. Adrian Peterson continues to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. He already has 684 yards with a 4.9 yards per carry average this season. 

In the passing game they obviously have wide receivers Randy Moss and Percey Harvin. Pats fans know about Moss, but a player to watch on Sunday has to be Harvin. He has the potential to be a top flight receiver in this league. So far this season he has 25 receptions for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. They also have a very accomplished tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe.

The big question for this unit is who will be the quarterback? Will it be Brett Favre or Tavaris Jackson? Favre is injured but I would not be surprised to see him play on Sunday.  The quarterback play for the Vikings seems to be the weak link for this unit thanks to Favre’s tendency to give away the football. For the Vikings to be successful they are going to need their quarterback to be efficient on Sunday.

The Vikings are a very dangerous team. They might be 2-4, however this team has the talent, and has the ability to be a tough opponent for the Patriots.   

Here are my “five keys” which  I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The Patriots need to stop Adrian Peterson.  In the last couple of games the Patriots defense has done a nice job stopping the run. The Pats are currently 9th in the NFL in rushing defense. If the Pats can slow down Peterson, it could force the Vikings to depend more on their quarterback to create offense in the passing game.

2. The Patriots need to contain Percey Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe. Randy Moss is not the player in the passing game I think the Pats need to fear on Sunday.  Moss I think will open up the middle of the defense for Harvin and Shiancoe. The intermediate routes for these two players could be where they make their yardage. Jerrod Mayo and Brandon Spikes need to control their area of the defense. The Pats safeties also need to play of role of containing Harvin and Shiancoe.

3. The Patriots defense needs to be efficient on third down defense.  The Patriots continue to be the worst in the league on the third down conversion rate at 48.8% on defense. This unit needs to get off the field on third down, and that’s obviously going to be a big key Sunday against Minnesota.  They cannot let the Vikings control the game and the clock.

4. The Patriots need to win the turnover battle. Favre has already thrown 10 interceptions. If he plays, the Patriots might have a great chance at creating turnovers.  The Vikings are currently at a -6 turnover ratio.  The Patriots are at +6 turnover ratio. Winning the turnover battle generally leads to a win, and clearly I expect that to be important Sunday.

5. The offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. I thought the offensive line did a poor job last week, as Brady was under constant pressure. Looking at the Vikings defense I think the Patriots could find it difficult to run in this match-up. They’ll need to give him time, so that Brady can find open receivers and hopefully not finish the first half 0-for-6 on 3rd down. Allen and Edwards can both get after the quarterback. The offensive line’s ability to give Brady time to throw will be important, so Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer need to be at their best against their opponents.

The Patriots are excellent at home at Gillette Stadium. However, the Vikings are very talented and this game will be a challenge. I think the game will come down to quarterback play. The Patriots I believe have a huge advantage at this position. I am predicting a Patriots 31-21 victory over the Vikings.

 What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section and I look forward to reading them.