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Patriots vs. Vikings preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
December 01, 2018 - 1:59 pm
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Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium should be a good one.

The 8-3 Patriots will host the 6-4-1 Vikings in a game between two teams likely headed for the playoffs. The Vikings are coming off a solid win against the Packers last Sunday night, while the Patriots bounced back from their worst loss of the season against Tennessee with a road win against the Jets.

All week Bill Belichick has raved about the job Mike Zimmer has done with the Vikings and Zimmer returned the favor by calling him the greatest coach of all-time.

Minnesota is led by its defense and will certainly be a tough test for the Patriots offense.

Vikings vs. Patriots
Sunday, December 2, 2018
4:25 p.m., FOX
Patriots -5, over/under 49.5

3 keys to the game

Spread them out and go on offense

The Vikings defense is very good, not only against the run, but also the pass. But, starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes is questionable with a hamstring injury and even if he does play, he likely will not be 100 percent. The best plan for the Patriots offense may be to spread things out and let Tom Brady go to work. Minnesota has struggled with covering No. 2 and 3 receivers this season, so it could be a big day for the likes of Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. Also, don’t be surprised if the Patriots go up-tempo to help offset the Vikings’ pass rush.

Be ready for Vikings blitzes

Minnesota doesn’t blitz much (25 percent, 17th in NFL), but when they do it is very effective. When blitzing this year, they have allowed only one touchdown and have four interceptions, good for the best in the league. They also employ some of the same pressures as the Titans did, which gave the Patriots offense all kinds of trouble a few weeks ago. Having Rob Gronkowski, Rex Burkhead and a healthy Sony Michel, as well as playing at home could make a big difference.

Keep Dalvin Cook in check

The Patriots’ struggles with covering running backs is well known, so don’t be surprised if the Vikings try and scheme up some plays to get some favorable matchups for Dalvin Cook. In six games, Cook has caught 19 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. Also, rain is expected for much of the game, so that may limit Kirk Cousins in the passing game, so there could be more check downs and designed plays for Cook.

Fun facts

1. With a win, the Patriots will guarantee their 18th straight winning season, extending their own NFL record. The previous record was by the 49ers and Cowboys, who each had 16 straight winning seasons.

2. Since 2001, the Patriots are 116-1 when leading at home after three quarters (includes playoffs).

3. Rob Gronkowski doesn’t have a single catch in the red zone this season (0-for-5).

4. The Patriots have scored in 39 straight second quarters. The last time the Patriots did not score in the second quarter was Oct. 2, 2016 against the Bills.

5. Dorsett has caught the last 10 passes thrown his way.

Prediction 

Patriots 27, Vikings 24

This has the makings of being a very good game that comes down to the final minutes. Ultimately, we see Cousins making one too many mistakes and that will be the difference in the game. But, if Cousins and the Vikings offense take care of the ball, they have a good chance of pulling off the upset. This is a statement game for the Patriots, who need one to show they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run.

Related: Julian Edelman admits he would rather jump for pass and take hard fall than get hit in knees