The Vikings get a chance to quickly forget about the Cowboys’ loss with a Thanksgiving primetime match-up against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. I, for one, love getting to watch the Vikings on Thanksgiving, especially when we need the opportunity to get back our positive momentum for the season.
A Little History
There are few better days during the football season than Thanksgiving Day. And there’s nothing better than a full day of food and football. Unless, of course, your team is playing. One of my favorite childhood memories is Thanksgiving Day during Randy Moss’s rookie season. Three catches, three touchdowns, and 163 yards in the midst of a magical Vikings season. We can only hope more of that magic shows up against the Patriots to help us rebound after last week’s embarrassing loss.
The Vikings are tied for the 11th-most appearances on Thanksgiving Day with eight total games played. They are 6-2 in those match-ups, and not surprisingly, five of those games have been played against Detroit, with whom the Vikings have the edge at three wins and two losses. We can only hope their winning percentage in this small sample size is bolstered in primetime against the New England Patriots.
The 2022 New England Patriots
At 6-4, the Patriots are right in the thick of the AFC playoff race. They are riding a three-game winning streak into their match-up with the Vikings, with two close wins against the New York Jets, and a more convincing victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
In the most recent game against the Jets, New England won the game on a punt return touchdown with just seconds remaining on the game clock. While Mac Jones was an efficient 23 for 27, for 246 yards, the offense as a whole couldn’t quite eclipse 300 total net yards. This was in part due to the fact that Jones was sacked six times by the Jets’ defense. New England, however, may not be too concerned, as their defense was once again lights out, as it has been their calling card all year. They rank fourth overall in yards allowed per game.
The Vikings’ Offense Needs To Be Ready To Be Flexible
This is not exactly the ideal scenario for a “get right” game for the Vikings’ offense, especially since Christian Darrisaw has been ruled out. This is a top-tier defense that will look to accomplish what the Cowboys did last week. So, the Vikings need to be able to adjust.
Justin Jefferson said it himself in a presser this week, and he’s obviously right. The Vikings need to be prepared to overcome their injuries and inadequate performances on the offensive line. I do believe Kevin O’Connell will be ready after last week’s debacle, so it’s a matter of making sure they give Kirk time in the pocket to look downfield. If they can get the push up front, this offense can score on anyone, and it’s one of the biggest keys to victory for the Vikings this week. The other key is success in the red zone.
Red Zone Efficiency: The Deciding Factor
As you’ve seen me write previously, I need Greg Joseph to string together some weeks with perfect kicking percentages. But not in the red zone. One of the big match-ups in this game will be each team’s offense in the red zone. New England has a top-10 red zone defense in terms of preventing opposing offenses from scoring six. With that being said, I don’t want Greg to have any field goal attempts that occur on drives that stall in the red zone.
We need to find a way to score touchdowns. On the flip side, we need to outperform our NFL-worst mark of allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 71.43% of red zone possessions. Now, if our defense can stop the run, I don’t anticipate the Patriots having too many opportunities inside of our 20, but if they do get there, we have to hold them to three. I can see red-zone possessions playing the deciding factor in this one..
Let’s Come Out Swinging
As is a trend with my opinions on this year’s Vikings, I would love to see us start on offense, and score on our opening drive to get the Bank rocking. I want the offense to get the first opportunity to forget about last week.
How they go about this is obviously up to our coaches. For my money? I’d like to see Jefferson get force-fed some touches. Since I also want us to establish a running game, why not a jet sweep to JJ on the game’s initial first-and-ten? Then, hit T.J. Hockenson over the middle for a first down. Maybe even work in some no-huddle to keep New England guessing. Regardless, I would like to see us be aggressive right off the bat.
For the Vikings, in addition to the big loss of Darrisaw, they will also be without rookie cornerbacks Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth, Jr. I know Booth did not have a good game last week, but that’s why I was hoping he’d get another chance right away to redeem himself. Za’Darius Smith and Justin Jefferson are both on the report but should play, so the only other major player to monitor is Dalvin Tomlinson. He’s missed the last three games, and it would be a huge boost if he were to return; he is listed as questionable.
For the Patriots, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn has been ruled out, with the following key players listed as questionable: C David Andrews, CB Marcus Jones, and WR DeVante Parker.
Well, if you’ve read more than a couple of my game previews, you know I always pick the Vikings. I promise I can admit when we are not expected to win, but when they’re 8-2, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think they’ll win every week.
The Vikings are only 2.5-point favorites, so Vegas considers this game a close one, but I think they’ll win by two possessions. I think our offense will make some big plays, while also being stymied at times by a Belichick-led defense, but the Patriots’ offense will struggle to score points. I’ll take our Vikes to win 21-10. We’ll get to 9-2, and we can finish the holiday weekend feeling good. SKOL!