Tomorrow, the Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) to Gillette Stadium in what promises to be a clash between two of the NFL’s elite talents. The Pats enter this contest with a 8-3 record and the AFC’s #2 seed, and a win on Sunday will keep them ahead of the Texans and Steelers in the playoff race.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 13 matchup.
1. The offense is facing an aggressive defense
Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense were quite efficient during last week’s victory against the Jets, as they were able to rebound from an early deficit and dictate the pace of the game due to Sony Michel’s strong performance on the ground. The offensive line was also able to protect #12, allowing him to find targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon throughout the game.
This week’s game presents a unique matchup for the Pats, as they face off against a Vikings team they almost met in Super Bowl LII. Minnesota has had one of the NFL’s best defenses over the last few years, with a dominant pass rush leading the way. For example, the Vikings constantly got after Aaron Rodgers last week, as they limited him to 198 yards. Unfortunately for the Pats, the Vikings have been able to get after the quarterback without bringing an additional rusher, which allows them to be better prepared in pass coverage. Games such as Week 2 at Jacksonville and Week 10 at Tennessee have demonstrated what an effective pass rush can do to the Patriots.
The Pats will need to rely on their running game, in order to take pressure off of Brady and stretch the field with play action, which will give them a good chance of winning this game.
2. The defense is also facing a tall task
The Pats defense has had a long road throughout the season, as they’ve been able to rebound from early clunkers and have solid performances against good offenses. This week will test them again, as they face off against a talented group in the Vikings. Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, Minnesota has been able to frequently dissect opposing defenses and put themselves in good position to win games. A major part of Minnesota’s offense is the duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who are arguably the best combination of wide receivers in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Pats plan to cover Thielen and Diggs, as most teams have failed to neutralize the duo. My guess is that Stephon Gilmore will be shadowing Thielen, while Jason McCourty notches the assignment of covering Diggs. The Pats will need to be able to generate constant pressure and get after Cousins, to ensure that he’s not comfortable in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have looked at Minnesota’s losses against the Rams, Saints and Bears, as all 3 games have shown what an effective pass rush can do to Cousins and the offense, as they can be forced into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Another major point of emphasis will definitely be trying to stop the rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, who can shred the defense if they’re not careful.
An effective performance against a talented Vikings offense will be huge for the Patriots as they enter the home stretch of the season.
- Dwayne Allen (knee) – Out
- Chad Beebe (hamstring) – Out
- David Morgan (knee) – Out
- Stefon Diggs (knee) – Questionable
- Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) – Questionable
- Mackenzie Alexander (knee) – Questionable
- Brandon Zylstra (foot) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots 28, Vikings 24
Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 13 contests.
Last week: 8-4
Panthers at Buccaneers: Panthers
Ravens at Falcons: Ravens
Bears at Giants: Bears
Bills at Dolphins: Dolphins
Colts at Jaguars: Colts
Browns at Texans: Texans
Broncos at Bengals: Broncos
Rams at Lions: Rams
Cardinals at Packers: Packers
Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs
Jets at Titans: Titans
49ers at Seahawks: Seahawks
Chargers at Steelers: Steelers
Redskins at Eagles: Eagles