The Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans are ready to play some football that counts, but first must get through the preseason finale against each other at Mall of America Field on Thursday night.
Last week, the Vikings were handled by the San Francisco 49ers 34-14, losing their third consecutive game of the exhibition slate. Tennessee looked much better, beating up the Atlanta Falcons 27-16 at home for its first win of the campaign.
For both teams, it's unlikely the starters will see ample playing time. Most won't see the field at all. Perhaps the two quarterbacks, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker, will see one series each simply to keep from getting rusty. With so much on the line for both of them this year, neither can afford a slow start.
Meet the Titans
Tennessee's offense could be one of the most explosive in the game if Locker becomes the player many thought he could be. The Titans have surrounded him with excellent talent including running back Chris Johnson, tight end Delanie Walker and wide receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, and Kendall Wright. The offensive line is also tremendously improved with the additions of Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack. Locker needs to take the next step and become an accurate passer who completes all the simple throws.
The defense is another story entirely. Tennessee was dead last in the league in 2012, allowing 29.4 points per game. Outside of Bernard Pollard, the Titans really didn't do much to address this unit. It's tough to see how Mike Munchak and the boys are going to win many games without the benefit of a shootout.
Meet the Vikings
Leslie Frazier has an excellent defense led by stars such as Kevin Williams and Jared Allen on the defensive line, and linebacker Chad Greenway right behind them. The Vikings also have safety Harrison Smith who has turned into a terrific player since being drafted in the first round out of Notre Dame in 2012. Smith finished second on the team last year behind Greenway with 104 tackles.
Offensively, Adrian Peterson is the best football player in the planet. The question is how good are the pieces around him? Greg Jennings was brought in to replace Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson was drafted in the first round to start opposite him. Will that duo become a feared one around the league? It all boils down to Ponder, who must step up in his third season. Matt Cassel was brought in as a backup this offseason and could take over if Ponder stumbles.
Local takes: Titans
Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracles writes about the importance of Jackie Battle making the team:
The Titans are making the move to a power running offense. To be a power running offense, you need a running back that is a "battering ram." Chris Johnson has never been and will never be that type of running back. That is why they went out and signed Shonn Greene. But what happens if Greene gets hurt and has to miss significant time?
That is exactly why Jackie Battle needs to be on this roster. He can get those tough yards that CJ cannot get in a pinch, and that is very important to the offensive set that they are trying to run.
Local takes: Vikings
At the Daily Norseman, Ted Glover says the most important thing about Thursday is a lack of injuries:
Really, this is about as meaningless a game that will be played in the NFL, with the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars schedule (ZING!), and an injury in a game this meaningless would be even more frustrating than usual. Really, let's keep it clean (I'm looking at you, 49ers cheap shot artist Joe Looney) and get out of this game without any serious injuries.
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Breaking Down the Minnesota Vikings Roster Cuts—Did They Make the Right Choices? http://t.co/xMFZQ8uF6w— The Daily Norseman (@DailyNorseman) August 28, 2013
It's tough to make a call on this one. Nobody of note will make any real contribution, so we're really talking about a bunch of guy playing desperate to keep their NFL dream alive. Usually when desperation enters the equation, you start talking about sloppy football. All that said, somebody needs to step up and take a stand with a pick. I guess that somebody is me.
My pick: Vikings 20, Titans 17
The Titans are favored by four points with an over/under of 39, according to oddsshark.com.
— Access Vikings (@AccessVikings) August 29, 2013 ">according to oddsshark.com