The Minnesota Vikings are definitely one of the surprising stories of the early part of the 2012 NFL season, as two consecutive surprising wins have propelled them to a 3-1 record and a tie for first place in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears. The Vikings will welcome the 1-3 Tennessee Titans to Mall of America Field in Week 5, as they look to extend their winning streak to three games and potentially take over the division lead by themselves.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Vikings’ ultimate success comes down to the performance of quarterback Christian Ponder. He has yet to throw an interception this season, but is coming off a lackluster yardage game last week against the Detroit Lions. The opportunity to rebound will be there in Sunday’s game against Tennessee, as the Titans are 27th in the league against the pass (285 yards per game) and 31st in total defense (421.5 yards per game) so far this season . Ponder’s performance will be a key factor in whether Minnesota wins or loses every week, and this Sunday will be no different.
Running back Adrian Peterson has looked close to his old self thus far this season, as he is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and has at least 21 carries in back-to-back games as he works his way back from a torn ACL in his left knee. Another good workload should be coming against the Titans, and a second straight 100-yard game would not be a big surprise.
Wide receiver Percy Harvin got Week 4’s victory over the Detroit Lions off on the right foot by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but overall he was not very productive with just three catches for 22 yards and three carries for 12 yards in the game. Finding a way to get the ball into Harvin’s hands more has to be a priority for Vikings’ offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave this week, and the Titans will surely make it one of their priorities defensively to take him away.
The Vikings’ defense will face a Titans’ offense that is dealing with injuries, as quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder) has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game and wide receiver Kenny Britt (ankle) is considered questionable right now. The venerable Matt Hasselbeck will start in Locker’s place, and whatever he lacks athletically compared to Locker he more than makes up for with veteran savvy. Titans’ running back Chris Johnson shook off an incredibly slow start to the season to rush for 141 yards last week against the Houston Texans, and containing him as both a runner and receiver will be a big key for the Minnesota defense this week.
Prediction: Vikings 28, Titans 20