Thanks to Anthony Hall. the lead writer at MVN’s Vikings site, Vikings War Cry. Anthony was kind enough to participate with us in a Q&A exchange. Following are our questions for him, with his answers. Tomorrow, I’ll post his questions to me, with my answers.
Enjoy this take on the game from the other side’s point of view.
Total Titans: Steve Hutchinson is the best guard in the league. Albert Haynesworth is the best defensive tackle. They’ll square off against each other Sunday. What are your thoughts on this matchup? To take it a step further, what is your take on the Vikings’ new left tackle and on their great center, Matt Birk? How do they fit into the equation of the Vikes’ o-line vs Titans d-line matchups?
Vikings War Cry: Suffice it to say, Hutchinson and Haynesworth are going to provide us with a helluva matchup to watch on Sunday — but the Vikings’ biggest concern up front is the face off between Artis Hicks (Bryant McKinnie’s replacement) and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Through the first three games of the season, Hicks has held his own against Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Dwight Freeney, and Julius Peppers, doing a serviceable — but not outstanding — job against those three ends. I don’t think the Hicks-Vanden Bosch matchup will be quite as lopsided as many Titans fans might be expecting, but it is a major advantage for Tennessee in the trenches. It’s also worth noting that the Vikings have outstanding blocking tight ends in Garrett Mills and Jim Kleinsasser. I’m cautiously optimistic that our guys will hold their own against Tennessee’s d-line.
TT: What are your thoughts on the two defensive tackles named Williams? What about the linebackers who play behind them? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
VWC: The “Williams Wall” is beastly — Pat and Kevin got off to a slow start in Green Bay, but since then, they’ve been just as dominant as they were in 2007. In all honesty, it’s hard to find fault with either of those guys, although I’d note that Pat isn’t nearly as useful on passing downs as he is on running downs. The linebackers are also stellar, as E.J. Henderson is a near lock for the Pro Bowl this season, Ben Leber is the consummate professional, and Chad Greenway is a player on the rise. Henderson has a nose for the football like few players I’ve ever seen, and he’s not lacking in athleticism. Leber isn’t someone you’ll ever see on the highlight reel, but he’s a sure tackler and has an outstanding football IQ. Greenway received quite a bit of flack last season for often being caught out of position in pass coverage, but after three games in the 2008 season, he’s certainly been keeping those mishaps to a minimum.
TT: Are there any specific types of defenses that Adrian Peterson has struggled against? If you were the Titans’ defensive coordinator, what would you do to try to contain him if you couldn’t use a shotgun?
VWC: The best thing you can do is stack the box and force Gus Frerotte to make plays. AD’s struggled against eight and nine man fronts, but it must be noted that on those occasions, the Vikings’ passing game utterly failed to ease that pressure. Open-field tackling will be absolutely key for the Titans this weekend — AD will almost inevitably break free on several rushes, and for the Titans to win this Sunday, they need to limit those rushes to 10-20 yards rather than 30+ yards. So, if I was the Titans’ defensive coordinator, I’d put eight guys up front, make Gus Frerotte do more than manage the game, and hope that my secondary can make key tackles when AD gets into the open field.
TT: What matchups do you like that favor the Vikings? Which matchups do you see that concern you?
VWC: With all due respect to Kerry Collins, I like how the Vikings’ pass defense matches up with Tennessee’s passing game. After a pair of solid outings against Peyton Manning and Jake Delhomme, the Vikings’ secondary won’t exactly be shaking in the boots when they face Collins. But I am concerned with the Vikings’ ability to protect Gus Frerotte — that Hicks-Vanden Bosch matchup sticks out like a sore thumb, and Gus has a laughable lack of mobility.
TT: Please give us a few general impressions with your take on the game and a prediction.
VWC: This game comes down to the running attack. The Titans’ explosive running game will be a test for the Vikings, and there just isn’t a great way to defend Adrian Peterson. I’ll take the homer’s way out and pick the Vikings, but if they do manage to escape Tennessee with a win, they’re not going to do it by more than a touchdown. Vikings head home with a 24-20 win.