The Minnesota Vikings will head to Tennessee in Week 1 to take on the Titans for the first time in regular season action since 2012. Minnesota came out on top in that game 30-7, and holds the all-time series lead 8-4.
The Vikings are a little shook after dealing with the most devastating preseason imaginable when their Pro Bowl quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a brutal non-contact injury severe enough that he could have been much worse off if the medical staff had not acted quickly enough. Simply put, the 23-year-old’s upper leg went off his lower leg, and in more advanced terms, he suffered a tibiofemoral dislocation and ruptured ACL that will keep him out for all of this season and possibly some of the next.
Without a real backup option behind Bridgewater, Minnesota went shopping for a commodity only a king’s ransom could garner. The search ended with Sam Bradford, a 28-year-old with little professional success, often hampered by injuries, whose name recognition still warrants starter-level hype. Still a better option than the Vikings had in place, the team forfeited their 2017 first-rounder and 2018 fourth-rounder in hopes the rest of the roster can play up to and beyond expectations to make a serious playoff push.
Shaun Hill, a 36-year-old backup, is expected to start instead of Bradford though head coach Mike Zimmer is playing coy and has not made an official announcement. Hill hasn’t started a game since 2014 and threw just seven times across three games last season, but Bradford was only acquired last week and is probably not yet ready to take the reins of an unfamiliar offense.
Stefon Diggs, a second-year wide receiver, will have to step up and play more consistently than he did in his freshman campaign. Luckily, he has had his share of time spent playing behind some subpar quarterbacks during his time at the University of Maryland — Hills' alma mater — and should be poised for a more stable year as he adjusts to the league. Diggs had a very good but lopsided rookie season. He totaled 52 receptions for 720 yards and four touchdowns, but 25 of those catches for 419 yards came in his first four of the 13 games he played in.
The Vikings will probably have to rely even more heavily than they have in the past on their run game in the early going with a new quarterback at the helm, and Adrian Peterson should be plenty rested after skipping preseason play, as he usually does. The 31-year-old is coming off a Pro Bowl season which saw him accumulate 1,485 yards on the ground on 4.5 yards per carry. He finished with 11 touchdowns.
While the Vikings are hoping to meet big expectations, exceed their 11-win mark from a season ago and head deeper into the playoffs, their Week 1 opponents, the Tennessee Titans, have a little less pressure entering the season. The league’s third-worst offense in terms of total yards per game last season will ride the hype of their 2015 first-round pick for another season as they develop Marcus Mariota into one of the league’s premier quarterbacks. Last season, the rookie completed 62 percent of his throws for 2,818 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The Titans have a brand new running core to complement Mariota’s play. In May they swapped fourth-round picks with the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for DeMarco Murray, a running back two years removed from a league-leading 1,845 yards on the ground. Murray’s numbers all took a hit in Philly, but he will without a doubt be a big step up from last season’s failed Bishop Sankey experiment. To back Murray up, the Titans also brought in rookie Derrick Henry with their second-round pick. The former Alabama back, who won the 2015 Heisman award, holds the single-season rushing yards record in the SEC with 2,219.
Football is back! And in the wake of Teddy Bridgewater’s gruesome injury, Minnesota has a great chance to tune up its offense against a Tennessee team years from its prime.
How to watch
When: 1 p.m. ET
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Chris Spielman
Online: Sunday Ticket