The absolutely essential element for the Vikings to beat the Bengals today will the play of the offensive line. If the turn in a perfomance similar to that they did against the Bucs, we’re looking at an 0-2 start to this season. If they can pull it together and play just an average game, it should open up the running game and, in turn, open up the passing game.
The Vikings will need to control the ball enough on offense to keep the defense from being on the field for as long as they were last week. The Vikings defense should be solid, but they were on the field far too long last week. Getting a credible running game going should help with that as well as slow down the pass rush and give Daunte some time to find receivers.
Look for the Vikings to pick on rookie middle linebacker Odell Thurman who, though he notched eight tackels last week, and picked off a pass, is still a rookie and should be tested. The Browns did on a crossing route to receiver Frisman Jackson that ended as a 68 yard touchdown.
The Bengals are an up-and-coming team that many predict will go beyond their 8-8 record of the past two seasons. Quarterback Carson Palmer is entering his third season and seems to have figured out how to play the position in the latter half of last year. He’s got two superb weapons to get the ball to in running back Rudi Johnson and standout wide receiver Chad Johnson.
On defense, the Vikings will need to stop Bengals running back Rudi Johnson, a bruiser they fed the ball to 26 of the 32 times they ran the ball last week against the Browns. Johnson gained 126 yards but his longest gain was for only 13 yards, so he’ll bite of chunks of two, three, five yards and they’ll keep feeding it to him in order to control the clock and set up the play action pass. The team averaged 117 yards a game last year and ranked 17th in the league in rushing.
Thier offensive line retuns intact and healthy from last season, where they solidified as a unit.
The Vikings did a good job of containing a very good back last week in Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who ran for 148 yards on 27 carries but 71 yards came on his touchdown run that sealed the game. Prior to that, the Vikings had given up only 2.5 yards per carry on 30 attempts.
If the O-line plays well, the Vikings should win this game.