Heading into the second half of the season, Minnesota Vikings fans have a good reason to be optimistic facing the rest of the year. Seven of the final eight games of the Minnesota Vikings schedule will be against teams that did not have a winning record in 2019. While a lot can change in a year, it’s still an angle that the Vikings faithful will cling on to. While games can look favorable, football isn’t played on paper. Players match up differently, and it’s the little things that make it worthwhile. Below are eight matchups to watch in the Minnesota Vikings schedule from weeks 10 to 17. Be sure to check out Weeks 1 through 9 as well.
Minnesota Vikings Schedule Key Matchups: Weeks 10-17
Week 10 at Chicago – Garrett Bradbury vs Akiem Hicks
While Khalil Mack may be the big star on the Chicago Bears defensive front, the most intriguing battle may be buried in the middle of the trenches. Bradbury had an impressive rookie year at center, and a lot of eyes are on him to see if he continues to grow. The 2019 first round pick will have his hands full however at Soldier Field, when he lines up opposite of the 2018 pro bowl defensive tackle. Coming off an injury that sidelined him for most of 2019, Hicks is headhunting, especially in a divisional clash. Mack will likely have to be double teamed on the left edge, leaving the second year center isolated with Hicks.
Week 11 vs Dallas – Mike Hughes vs Amari Cooper
The 2019 fixture between the Dallas Cowboys and Vikings came down to a goal line stand in the final minute of play. Nevermind the fact that Dak Prescott threw for just about 400 yards, his eyes were on his number one receiver for 60 minutes, Amari Cooper. Registering 147 yards and a touchdown, people are expecting a similar performance from Cooper come November, especially given the Vikings situation at corner. The responsibility falls to Mike Hughes to clamp down the Alabama product. If Cooper proves to be ineffective, Prescott will resolve to a less expansive, bread and butter playbook, hitting CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup on shorter throws. If that’s the case at US Bank Stadium, Minnesota’s linebackers will have a field day.
Week 12 vs Carolina – Vikings fans vs Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater. The brightest light Minnesota had had at quarterback since Brett Favre. Sure there was Christian Ponder, a bit of Sam Bradford, a layover for Donovan McNabb. But Bridgewater was different. Beloved by all, sought out to be the one to take Minnesota to the next level. Until an ACL tear in 2016 derailed the Vikings train. He would only play two more snaps for the purple and gold ever again. Fast forward to 2020, where an impressive stint with the New Orleans Saints landed Bridgewater the starting gig for the Carolina Panthers. Bridgewater returned to Minnesota in 2018 as a backup for the Saints. In 2020, he will walk onto the field as a starter. It will be hard for Vikings fans to see what could have been come November, and US Bank Stadium will have to find the fine line between support for Teddy, and hostility for a traveling team.
Week 13 vs Jacksonville – Kyle Rudolph vs K’Lavon Chaisson
Between the reliable Kyle Rudolph, an emerging Irv Smith Jr and an eager Tyler Conklin, Minnesota boasts a deep tight end pool. With Rudolph getting the most reps and having the most experience, it’s only natural that he is Kirk Cousins‘ go-to big man and the biggest red zone threat. Standing 6’6 and 265 pounds, Rudolph isn’t the most agile tight end. Nor is he close to being in the conversation. However he will set a good block and catch a high ball, and do what Gary Kubiak will ask of him. The answer from the Jacksonville Jaguars? First round draft pick K’Lavon Chaisson from LSU. A powerful, athletic, ball playing linebacker could be the puzzle piece for Jacksonville to disrupt Minnesota’s offensive flow. Chaisson is close in height and weight to Rudolph, except is far more athletic, quicker and versatile.
Week 14 at Tampa Bay – Danielle Hunter vs Tristian Wirfs
Danielle Hunter will likely be the only starter from Minnesota’s 2019 defensive line to still be with the team for the upcoming campaign. With each passing season, Hunter has gained more and more respect league wide as an elite edge rusher. Following the departures of Linval Joseph, Stephen Weatherly and likely Everson Griffen, Hunter will bear more responsibility than ever before. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the introduction of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski has raised the bar for 2020 massively in Florida. For the safety of their aging quarterback, Tristian Wirfs was drafted 13th overall to play right tackle. The Iowa native will have no easy task in fending off Hunter, with the rookie going up against a six year veteran.
Week 15 vs Chicago – Kirk Cousins vs Chicago linebackers
It’s no secret that Cousins takes a little longer than most quarterbacks to relate the ball. According to Pro Football Reference, Cousins actually had the longest average time from the ball being snapped to releasing the pass. He simply won’t be given that time when the Bears come to town in week 15. Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith, the list of quality linebackers goes on and on. They will undoubtedly bring heat on the offensive line (which has seemingly made a tradition of getting injured down the stretch in recent years), as well as lurk over the middle. In 2019, Minnesota commonly resorted to screen plays and short passes to get the job done in the passing game. If the Vikings pull out a similar style play book, Chicago won’t have a problem breaking up passes in the middle and blitzing Cousins.
Week 16 at New Orleans – Adam Thielen vs Marshon Lattimore
I would have loved to have put Stefon Diggs vs Marcus Williams in this slot, however I wasn’t given the chance. Instead, the next best thing with Adam Thielen vs Marshon Lattimore, the biggest battle no one remembers from that frantic 2019 wildcard game. Before the huge 43 yard bomb in overtime, Thielen had already caught six balls for 86 yards over Lattimore. The pair were going at it all game, a great matchup that could’ve gone on forever. However, after hitting his head in the extra frame, Lattimore had to sit out for Patrick Robinson, who would go on to allow the connection to Thielen to set up the Vikings victory. There is no doubt that Thielen and Lattimore will pick up where they left off when the two square up on Christmas Day, with Lattimore sporting some unfinished business to say the least.
Week 17 at Detroit – Anthony Barr vs T.J. Hockenson
Wrapping up the Minnesota Vikings schedule with the Detroit Lions, Minnesota will be hoping that they have locked up a playoff spot coming into this fixture. Yet, if the Vikings are still fighting either for positioning or a post season birth, Anthony Barr should have a key role to play in December. The linebacker has been one of the cornerstones of the team for the last handful of seasons, and that experience will pay dividends when matching up with Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson. Coming into his second year, Hockenson quickly became one of Matthew Stafford‘s favorite weapons, playing in a similar role to Rudolph for Minnesota. Barr has the athleticism, size, and smarts to keep up with the play making tight end. Even if Barr decides to blitz, his footwork and block shedding ability can be stopped by only a few.
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