The Minnesota Vikings square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday at noon from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Vikings are 3.5 point favorites heading into the game, but there’s a lot of work to be done to earn a victory.
Let’s take a look at 3 Keys to Victory for Week 1:
1) Game Management – This will fall mostly on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, but Christian Ponder must play under control at the same time. He can’t force throws that aren’t there, and he can’t try to do too much. He needs to take what the defense gives him and cannot turn the ball over.
We saw this out of Ponder in the first two preseason games, and he looked like a different quarterback. But in the third game, he didn’t look comfortable, and was pressured and sacked repeatedly. That can’t happen Sunday.
If he can stay calm, keep his eyes down the field, and make smart throws, the offense will move the ball the down field.
2) Keep Pressure on Blaine Gabbert – The other second year quarterback in this game also looked much improved in the preseason. After a disappointing rookie campaign, Gabbert finally showed glimpses of why the Jaguars took him with their first pick last April.
The Vikings of course will get plenty of pressure with their front four, headed up by All-Pro Jared Allen, but I expect to see plenty of heat from the linebackers as well. Keeping Gabbert off balance should be a crucial part of the game plan.
3) Steady Diet of Toby Gerhart – This unquestionably is Gerhart’s biggest day as a pro. Even if Adrian Peterson does play a few downs, it’s still going to be Gerhart’s show. This is his time to show he’s a legitimate top tier NFL running back.
He showed tremendous patience and timing with his limited runs in the preseason, and the Vikings must continue to build on that success. I’m calling for a minimum of 17 touches, and won’t complain if he gets more. If Gerhart can be effective, it will take pressure off of Ponder, and the entire offense will flow.