Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Night Preview: Pats @ Vikes

Finally the Pats get a Monday Nighter. But why the hell do the 3-time champs have to travel to the hinterlands of the Minnesota Metrodome to get on prime time? I mean shouldn't the Vikes, who haven't won anything since Fran Tarkenton was slingin' the rock for them, have to travel to Foxborough for this game? Anyway, the Pats are unstoppable indoors , and Tom Terrific is just that inside: he has a 9-0 record away from the elements.

The Vikings (4-2) are one of the surprises of the league this year (all the more reason to question the MNF gift) and are coming off of a 31-13 demolition of the Seahawks last week in the Pacific Northwest. But the Pats have been quietly sneaking up on the rest of the league: they started out slowly, with unimpressive wins over Buffalo & the Jets and an ugly loss to the Broncos at Gillette. But since that 17-7 defeat on Sept. 24th New England has rattled off 3 straight impressive wins, and a win tonight would serve notice to the rest of the league that the Patriots are back on the Super Bowl map.

This game has all the makings of a run-fest. Minny has been riding the strong legs of Chester Taylor all season long. Taylor has carried the ball 136 times, the rest of the Viking running backs have 16 carries combines. Taylor lit up the Seahawks last week for 169 yards, including this 95-yard TD jaunt. He also leads the Vikes in receptions with 21. Long gone are the days of Culpepper-to-Moss. Now Brad Johnson guides the Minny offense, and it is his pinpoint accuracy and ability to lead the team rather than carry it that has made Minnesota so successful since he took the reigns from Culpepper midway through last season.

The Pats have also relied heavily on the running game. RB Lawrence Maroney leads all rookies with 361 yards on 86 carries while splitting time with aging workhorse Corey Dillon(328yds.) That double-barreled assault has allowed Brady to settle in to his new offense, spreading the ball around to a new group of receivers including Doug Gabriel, Chad Jackson, and TE Ben Watson (leading receiver with 21 grabs for 271 yards.) But Maroney played his college ball in the very building the Pats will be playing in tonight with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and he will have plenty of friends & family on hand tonight. Look for him to try and have a breakout game in his old digs despite the fact that he will be facing the league's stingiest run defense(70/YPG).

It has all the makings of a slug-it-out affair with both teams relying on veteran steady, accurate passers and dazzling young runners. Are the Vikes ready to win a game like this, in their 1st appearance at home on Monday Night in 5 years? We shall see.

MY PICK: Pats 24, Vikes 20

No comments: