The Minnesota Vikings will host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, as two teams that combined for eight wins in 2011 square off. It’s fair to say it’s not one of the marquee matchups on the NFL slate this weekend, and few people outside of Minneapolis or Jacksonville that aren’t fantasy football owners are likely to have much interest.
From the Vikings’ side of things most of the news between now and game time will surround the status of running back Adrian Peterson as he may be active for Sunday’s contest despite being under nine months removed from a major injury to his left knee that included a torn ACL. If he is ultimately active, and coach Leslie Frazier has said that the decision will be made by Saturday morning, the questions will then turn to how much Peterson plays and how effective he can and will be. Even if Peterson is in uniform, Toby Gerhart should see plenty of work as Minnesota’s workhorse tailback.
The Jaguars have also had concerns regarding their star running back this preseason, though for a much different reason with Maurice Jones-Drew recently ending his lengthy holdout. Rashad Jennings will start Sunday’s game with Jones-Drew likely serving as the third-down back, but their should be plenty of carries to go around as Jacksonville tries to protect quarterback Blaine Gabbert from a Minnesota pass rush that tied for the league lead in 2011 with 50 sacks (22 by defensive end Jared Allen). Just how well Jones-Drew will perform after missing the entire preseason is a big question, but being eased back into action should help the Jaguars get the most out of him while not risking injury.
Both the Vikings with Christian Ponder and Jaguars with Gabbert will start second-year signal callers who are looking to put lackluster rookie seasons behind them. The performance level of both guy will be a barometer for how their teams perform, both on Sunday and through the rest of the season. The similarities don’t end there, as both Ponder and Gabbert were chosen in the top half of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Jaguars 14