Minnesota (4-9-1) head to Cincinnati (9-5) with the Bengals still in pole position to pick up the AFC North crown. Andy Dalton will be looking to lead his team to a victory following last week’s disappointing 30-20 loss at Pittsburgh. By contrast, the Vikings come into the game buoyed by an impressive 48-30 win over the in form Philadelphia Eagles.
Although out of the playoff picture, Minnesota has performed well in recent weeks, picking up two wins, a tie in Green Bay and a last gasp defeat in Baltimore. Matt Cassel has got the nod at quarterback after last week’s outstanding performance and, in tandem with Greg Jennings, will be confident of continuing the Vikings' good form.
With the Bengals only one game ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North, they will be desperate for the win that will help them achieve their minimum goal of a home match in the first round of the playoffs. With a match against the Ravens still to come, Cincinnati knows that victory against Minnesota is vital in this aim.
With all that taken into account, what should be looking out for this weekend?
- Minnesota’s offense will rack up over 400 yards
Last week, the Vikings offense was incredibly effective, even without Adrian Peterson and his back up Toby Gerhart through injury. Cassel threw for 382 yards and 2 scores, with a passer rating of 116.6. Jennings came alive at wide receiver, hauling in 11 passes for a mammoth 163 yards. With Peterson likely to come back into the equation this could be a genuine double threat offence for the Vikings. Add in ex-Bengal Jerome Simpson and the explosiveness of rookie Cordarrelle Patterson and the weapons are there for the Vikings to cause Cincinnati’s defence problems.
- Cordarrelle Patterson will score at least one touchdown
Patterson has become more involved in the offense in recent weeks, scoring in the last three games. A rushing touchdown against Chicago has been followed by receiving scores in consecutive games against Baltimore and Philadelphia. Don’t be surprised to see him attempt an option pass at some stage either; he has the ability in his repertoire to take it on and was intending to last week, before opting for a run as his intended receiver was covered. You have been warned……
- Andy Dalton to pass for 250+ yards and two touchdowns
The Vikings pass defence has been poor this season, giving up 4289 yards through week 15. With AJ Green looking to add to his 1268 receiving yards and Xavier Rhodes again unlikely to feature for Minnesota, expect Dalton to look to move the ball through the air. With 3649 yards to his name already this year, there is a chance that he will break the 4000 yard barrier on Sunday, although he will need to improve on recent performances to gain the yardage required.
We could be in for another high scoring game with the Vikings, whose best chance for success is simply to try and keep scoring points to compensate for a less than robust defensive unit. The advantage is certainly with the Bengals, but as we all know anything can happen during the heat of battle...