The Vikings are set to kick off their 2021 season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. While nothing is a sure thing, Vikings fans should go to bed easy tonight with confidence in their team. Here is your Week 1 preview in this edition of The Voyage.
Dial Up The Pass
The Bengals have already announced that their top corner, former Viking Trae Waynes, will be inactive. With Waynes sidelined, Cincy will be ultra-vulnerable against the pass.
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Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple are the next men up for the Bengals, and, quite simply, Mike Zimmer should be licking his lips. While he has stayed true to his run-first philosophy quite often, there may not be a better opportunity to let it loose in the passing game.
With the duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins could honestly have a career day. Yes, the Bengals do have Jessie Bates, and he will surely be a factor. However, I just do not see how we can pass up this opportunity to exploit such a weak unit.
Handicap Rashod Hill
As we recently discovered, Christian Darrisaw will be inactive for week one. In his absence, Rashod Hill will be tasked with filling in at left tackle. Against a weak defense like Cincinnati, the damage could be minimized. However, if the Bengals scheme Trey Hendrickson against Rashod Hill for an extended period of time, he will need backup.
For this reason, I expect to see a variety of plays that call for fullback or tight end help on the left side. Perhaps newly acquired Ben Ellefson will see more time than expected as a blocking specialist.
Additionally, Minnesota could alleviate the problem through a combination of play-action and misdirection. Slowing defenders down by making them question where the ball is could buy Hill some extra time. Whatever the strategy is, if we plan on passing the ball much on Sunday, Hill will need help.
Poor Joe Burrow
Plain and simple, Joe Burrow does not look ready to return to full speed. Tossing him in less than 10 months post-surgery against a completely revamped Vikings defensive line is just not a good recipe.
Their offensive line would have been hard-pressed to stop the Vikings last season. Now, against Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Sheldon Richardson, DJ Wonnum, and Everson Griffen… yeah, you get the point.
My bold prediction for this game is that the Vikings rack up five sacks, at least. Hunter should come back with a vengeance, and with the elite DT duo of Pierce and Tomlinson, there may not be much running room either. Long story short, if games are won in the trenches, the Vikings will start will a huge advantage.
Strength Vs. Strength
The Bengals own one of the league’s best trios at wide receiver. For most opponents, that could be a huge issue. Fortunately for Minnesota, I think that they stack up very well.
While things could certainly be different when the game starts, I envision the Vikings top three corners all having great matchups. Patrick Peterson looks to be a great matchup against Tee Higgins on the outside.
Many have said that Peterson is a step slower than he used to be. Even if he is, Higgins is not exactly known for his elite athleticism. Peterson’s experience and physicality will win him a lot of reps there.
On the other side, Bengals’ first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase will probably have quite a few battles with Bashaud Breeland. While Chase has had training camp struggles and dropping problems in the preseason, Breeland is coming off two of his best seasons in Kansas City.
While I have no doubt that Chase will blossom into an elite receiver, I do not see him having an easy time in week one. Apparently, neither does Kris Boyd. Sidenote, I hope Boyd retires a Viking.
Last but not least, Tyler Boyd will probably see the most success of the three to start the season. Even then, he will not have an easy task, going up against Mackensie Alexander. Mack is one of the very best nickel defenders in the NFL, and I am honestly excited to see his matchup with Boyd.
I may be biased [insert guilty face here], but I do not anticipate this being a close one. In fact, if I had to pick a lock for Week 1, my money is on Minny.