The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 heading into their crucial Week 3 matchup with the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings still have high expectations to fulfill this season, meaning this week presents a must-win game for the last place Vikings. The Browns boast one of the better run defenses in the league, meaning the pass game, and more specifically Kyle Rudolph, will be the Vikings’ breakout performer.
Rudolph was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season and was even awarded with the game MVP, which isn’t much of a real honor considering the effort given, but nonetheless, Rudolph emerged as one of the more important offensive players for the Vikings last season. Through two games this year, Rudolph has been rather neglected as he has been targeted just 10 times so far by quarterback Christian Ponder.
Rudolph, however, is getting more attention downfield this year as four of his 10 targets have come 15 yards or further down the field. Rudolph just has to start catching the balls thrown his way at a better rate than 50 percent as he could easily be an x-factor in most games. Just last week against the Chicago Bears, Rudolph was targeted for a touchdown just before the end of the half, a touchdown that measured 20 yards and would have been a change in momentum had the defense not given up a last-second field goal at the end of the half.
This week, the passing game will have to improve as the Browns are giving up an average of just 60 rushing yards per game, meaning Adrian Peterson will have to fight for every yard he gains. The pass defense for the Browns has held up so far this season, but with them most likely dedicating more focus to Peterson, it will be Ponder’s time to step up.
Rudolph has always been used as Ponder’s safety net, and now that he is also being utilized as a downfield threat, it shouldn’t be long before he absolutely breaks out. Greg Jennings has done a good job proving he still has reliable hands, and with Rudolph being a great third-option in the pass game, he will be in the position to excel this weekend.