The Minnesota Vikings will finally have their 2013 home opener in Week 3, as they welcome the Cleveland Browns to Mall of America Field. Both teams are 0-2 heading into the game, so barring a rare tie someone will get their first win of the season.
Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder played solidly in the second half of last week’s loss to the Chicago Bears, so he has likely kept questions about Matt Cassel taking his starting job at bay for at least another week. Running back Adrian Peterson will again be the most important player for Minnesota’s offense, and he has good memories of playing the Browns (180 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 of the 2009 season).
Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson started last week’s game with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, showing the big play potential that made him a first-round pick in April. Getting him more involved offensively (11 combined snaps in the first two games) has to be a priority, and Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier has said as much in his public comments this week. Still, it remains to be seen if offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will get the hint and find a way to utilize Patterson.
The Browns have only scored 16 points in their first two games, and their offense will look dramatically different at a couple key positions this week. Quarterback Brian Hoyer will make his second career start in place of the injured Brandon Weeden (thumb), and running back Trent Richardson was traded to the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday. They will get wide receiver Josh Gordon back after his two-game suspension to start the season, and tight end Jordan Cameron (14 receptions for 203 yards and a touchdown this season) is a threat, but the Vikings’ defense should have little trouble keeping Cleveland’s offense at bay on Sunday.
Prediction: Vikings 21, Browns 10
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.