Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/5/12

The Minnesota Vikings are one of this year's biggest surprises. Leslie Frazier failed to help the team in his first year as a true head coach, going only 3-13, down from the previous year's 6-10. 

They now somehow are 3-1 and tied for the lead in their division, having beaten last year's two biggest surprises on the way.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans, who had so much hope going into this year, have been downright ineffective. 

Chris Johnson, formerly known as CJ2K, has looked more like last year's model than the Johnson we saw two or three years ago (and he very nearly became CJNoK last year). Now their quarterback of the future is down for at least a few weeks, and they have to rely on an aging Matt Hasselbeck.

Hasselbeck just isn't very mobile anymore - I probably won't be mobile by NFL standards either when I hit 37. Last week the Vikings registered five sacks on Matt Stafford, all of them from their defensive line. 

Part of this year's surprise is a resurgence of the Vikings' defense, albeit maybe not to "Purple People Eater" status, and a lot of it has to do with that defensive line. Minnesota mostly just rushed with four guys for the majority of the game, making the few blitzes they did call so much more effective. Stafford was often having to scramble to avoid a sack.

Because Hasselbeck is so much older, he won't be able to escape, and the Vikings will up the ante to 10 sacks on the week. It won't help that the Titans still can't rely on their star running back, who has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry and 46.5 yards per game. Maybe now the Titans wish they had a bruising back like Lendale White to pair with Johnson.

Hasselbeck is still a smart quarterback, and doesn't do much to put his team in danger. His two picks were actually smart throws that just went bad. His first was to a receiver that had a couple of steps on his man when Hasselbeck threw the ball, but Thompson couldn't hang on, and on his second Williams was positioned between the defender and Hasselbeck and just didn't get to the spot quick enough.

Even with pressure in his face, Hasselbeck won't turn the ball over during the course of the game.  Having a week's worth of practice to get his timing down will help him immensely.

The Titans are also weak in the middle on their defense. They have the 27th run defense in the league, with an average of 136.5 rushing yards allowed per game, even after the Texans only gained 95 yards on the ground because some great defensive plays by Houston kept the Texans' offense off the field. 

Adrian Peterson should put up his usually high numbers (and I have to say, he runs like his knee has completely recovered).

However, what's most disturbing in the middle is the Titans' lack of ability to cover tight ends. Owen Daniels and James Casey combined for 11 catches for 108 yards and two TDs last week, Brandon Pettigrew had eight catches for 61 yards the week before that, and Dante Rosario, a backup with San Diego, almost doubled his career TDs against them when he got three scores on four catches. 

Add on the famous New England tandem, who had 12 catches for 119 yards and two TDs, and it becomes obvious -- the Titans can't stop tight ends.

Kyle Rudolph entered the season with lots of hype, and will eat the Titans' defense alive this week.  He is just as talented as most of the tight ends Tennessee has faced, and should start catching up to Percy Harvin's numbers this week. He should be somewhere around eight catches for 120 yards and two TDs.

Between that tough Minnesota defense and the crowd, the Titans won't be able to maintain drives.  Rudolph and Peterson should force the Titans to focus on protecting the middle of the field, giving room for Harvin and Jerome Simpson to work the sidelines. 

This game is going to end on a couple of Vikings kneeldowns for the win, 34-13.

The author is once again emotionally balanced, despite his last article being a massive tirade. At this point, he is just hoping the Rangers snap out of their funk and make the real playoffs (because one game isn't really a playoff unless it's football). 

You can send him messages during the game via Twitter (@RGDSports) or Facebook (RGDSports@yahoo.com), and he will do his best to respond, although he is stuck working through the game.



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