Following two victories at TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings will travel to Kansas City for the team’s Week 3 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are returning home following a Week 2 loss to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. On Aug. 26, every NFL team must reduce their roster to a maximum of 75 players on their active list, making the performance of roster bubble players absolutely critical this weekend.
The Vikings’ quarterback competition between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater will continue this weekend. Cassel was named Saturday’s starter, but Bridgewater is also expected to see time with the first-team offense. Cassel will have an opportunity to solidify himself as the Vikings’ Week 1 starter with a strong performance against the team he led to the playoffs back in 2010. However, if he struggles, head coach Mike Zimmer may opt to prolong the competition for another week, leaving the door wide open for Bridgewater to win the job.
The Chiefs already have a solidified starting quarterback in Alex Smith, who is expected to play sparingly on Saturday. However, the coaching staff is still making final decisions at other positions. Tight end Travis Kelce has had an excellent preseason and should surpass veteran Anthony Fasano on the depth chart with another strong performance. Former Viking Husain Abdullah currently is listed as the No. 1 free safety on the Chiefs’ depth chart and should hang onto this position barring a horrific performance or injury.
It is also worth noting that both the Vikings and Chiefs currently roster wide receivers facing suspensions. Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver, was arrested last fall for possession of marijuana and will be forced to sit out Week 1 of the regular season. It would not be shocking if Bowe does not see much game action, as game three of the preseason is often used by teams as a regular season tune-up game, with starters resting during Week4.
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson faces a three-game suspension, which he is currently appealing. While Bowe’s miscue will not cost him a spot on the Chiefs’ roster, Simpson’s spot on the Vikings’ roster is not guaranteed. This would be the second time in three years that Simpson will miss opening weekend due to a suspension. Another strong performance from Rodney Smith could end Simpson’s tenure in Minnesota.
It remains to be seen whether the Vikings will play Simpson at all this week, but linebacker Gerald Hodges and cornerback Jabari Price have already been ruled out. Both players sustained injuries last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals. Hodges, a fourth-round pick in 2013, and Price, a seventh-round pick this past May, have both played well this preseason. Their injuries come at an inconvenient time, as both players were challenging for larger roles with the team.
However, the Vikings will return Robert Blanton, who has missed the past few weeks with an injury. Blanton is still listed as the starting safety opposite of Harrison Smith and will finally have an opportunity to defend this role.
For the Chiefs, keep a special eye on running backs De’Anthony Thomas and Knile Davis, as both players have been impressive this preseason. Thomas scored on an 80-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals on his first NFL punt return. Davis, possessing a very different skill set, has had success rushing the football this summer, averaging over five YPC during the preseason.
It is worth noting that the Chiefs recorded 13 penalties last week totaling an astounding 131 yards. It should come as no surprise that reducing these totals will be a team focus.
As for the Vikings, keep a special eye on the playing time of cornerback Josh Robinson and former starting quarterback Christian Ponder. When asked about Robinson’s injury status in an interview, Zimmer expressed some irritation with the cornerback. Ponder, on the other hand, has nit thrown much during practice so far this week after not playing at all last Saturday. This may be his last week in a purple jersey.
While a regular season matchup between the Vikings and Chiefs would be a battle between arguably the two best running backs in football, both Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are not expected to play Saturday. Regardless, this game features more than enough storylines to make for a compelling Week 3 preseason matchup.