Broncos @ Vikings Week 13 Game Preview

Bronco fans are hoping to see this many times on Sunday. Lawrence Sidbury of the Atlanta Falcons sacks Christian Ponder of the Minnesota Vikings last week at the Georgia Dome.(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

With a little over a month remaining in the 2011 NFL season, the Denver Broncos will take their 4-game winning streak on the road as they visit the Minnesota Vikings. The Broncos are 6-5 coming off a sweet victory over division rival San Diego Chargers. They currently sit in 2nd place in the AFC West. one game behind the Oakland Raiders. The 2-9 Vikings lost to the Atlanta Falcons 24-14 in the Georgia Dome last week and are on a 3-game slide. The last time Minnesota was victorious was on October 30th, a 24-21 squeaker over the Carolina Panthers.

November was a very good month for the Broncos, but December is when you want to play your best football. Since Denver has shown improvement over the last 4 weeks, there is no reason to think they have peaked for the year. Jump with me and we will take a look at this week's opponents.
Weather and Conditions


This game was flexed from an afternoon spot to an 11:00 am MST starting time. The game will be nationally broadcast on FOX with Thom Brennaman doing the play by play, Brian Billick providing the color commentary and Laura Okmin reporting from the sidelines. Check here to see if the game can be seen in your area.

Weather won't be a factor in this contest since the venue is indoors. The Metrodome seats 64,111 and has a Fieldturf playing surface.

Injuries and external factors


The biggest news of the week occurred yesterday, when the Vikings announced the release of Quarterback Donovan McNabb. Donovan had started 6 games this season, going (94/156, 1,026 yds, a 60.3% Comp, Rate, 4 TDs, 2 INTs and an 82.9 Passer Rating).


After that, the story becomes whether or not league leading rusher Adrian Peterson will play. Minnesota has had their share of season-ending injuries too. OT Scott Kooistra (Neck), LB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antoine Winfield (Collarbone), LS Cullen Loeffler (Back), FS Tyrell Johnson (Hamstring), WR Michael Jenkins (Knee) and FS Husain Abdullah (49 TKL, 1 SK, 5 PD, 1 INT) to a Concussion just this week. Losing the 3 Defensive Backs is what really hurts the Vikings.

OFFENSE


This chart represents the Rankings for the Vikings Offense as compared to the Broncos Defense. I have also included last week's rankings for the Broncos so you can see progress or regress. The DVOA stat is taken from Football Outsiders and is explained here.

Vikings Broncos
Offense Rank Category Rank Defense
19.5 22nd Points For 22nd 23.6
314.9 23rd Total Yds 18th 355.3
179 30th Pass Yds 17th 234.7
135.9 5th Rush Yds 19th 120.5
34 5th Most Sacks T-7th 30
N/A N/A Forced Fumbles T-16th 9
8 T-3rd Least Interceptions 26th 7
39.50% 4th 3rd Downs 8th 35.60%
-2.70% 23rd Overall DVOA 17th 6.10%
1 T-12th Turnover Margin T-22nd -4
55 14th Most QB Hits Allowed N/A N/A

The Vikings gave the reins to their first draft pick (12th overall) Quarterback Christian Ponder in Week 7. He is 1-4 during that time. (92/169 for 1,141 yds, 54.4% Completion Rate, 6 TDs, 6 INTs and a 72.6 Passer Rating in 5 starts). With Donovan McNabb's departure, 2nd year Joe Webb, who has only thrown one pass this year, is the lone backup.

The Running Backs are workhorse Adrian Peterson (872 yds, a 4.7 avg, 11 TDs and 16 catches, 125 yds, 1 TD), Toby Gerhart (41 carries,162 yds, 4.0 avg, 1TD and 7 catches, 80 yds, 1 TD) and Lorenzo Booker (4 carries, 34 yds and 3 Catches, 34 yds). The Fullback is Ryan D'Imperio (2 catches, 7 yds). Not surprisingly, Adrian Peterson is the bulk of the Vikings Offense. He is 7th in the league in rushing yards and is tied for the most touchdowns. It remains to be seen if he can play on Sunday, but if he can't go, Toby Gerhart and Percy Harvin (33 car, 235 yds, 7.1 avg, 1 TD) will get his touches.


At Wide Receiver, Percy Harvin (51 Rec, 554 yds, a 10.9 avg, 2 TD) starts on one side and Michael Jenkins (38 Rec, 466 yds, a 12.3 avg and 3 TDs). Devin Aromashodu (9 Rec, 213 yds, a 23.7 avg, 1 TD), Bernard Berrian (7 Rec, 91 yds) and Greg Camarillo (4 Rec, 62 yds) round out this corp.

The Tight Ends are Visanthe Shiancoe (29 Rec, 340 yds, 11.7 avg, 2 TDs) Jim Kleinsasser and Rookie Kyle Rudolph (17 Rec, 177 yds, 1 TD). Allen Reisner was just promoted from the Practice Squad. Minnesota likes to utilize a 2 Tight End look quite often with Shiancoe and Kleinsasser.


The Offensive Line looks like this: LT Charlie Johnson (4 Penalties, including 3 False Starts, 6 Sacks Allowed), LG Steve Hutchinson (1 FS, 2 Hold, 1 SA), Center John Sullivan (2 SA), RG Joe Berger (1 FS, 1 Hold, 1 SA) and RT Phil Loadholt (3 FS, 2 Hold, 7 SA). Backup RG Anthony Herrera (1 SA) and RT Patrick Brown (1 Hold, 1 SA) have filled in as needed, while Rookies DeMarcus Love (LT) and Brandon Fusco (C) haven't received significant playing time.

DEFENSE

This chart represents the Rankings for the Vikings Defense as compared to the Broncos Offense.

Vikings Broncos
Defense Rank Category Rank Offense
26.8 30th Points Against 21st 20.1
357.8 19th Total Yds 25th 312.8
258.2 29th Pass Yds 31st 153.1
99.6 9th Rush Yds 1st 159.7
33 T-3rd Sacks 17th Most 25
11 T-7th Forced Fumbles N/A N/A
6 28th Interceptions T-3rd Least 8
44.20% 30th 3rd Downs 26th 32.40%
12.50% 27th Overall DVOA 24th -2.80%
81/655 9th Most Penalties 14th Most 69/595
N/A N/A QB Hits Allowed 25th Most 44

Minnesota's Defensive Line looked like this against the Falcons: LDE Brian Robison (26 TKL, 5.5 SK, 1 PD, 1 FF) , LDT Remi Ayodele (6 TKL), RDT Kevin Williams (23 TKL, 2 SK, 2 PD, 1 FF) and RDE Jared Allen (48 TKL, 13.5 SK, 3 FF, 3 PD, 1 INT). Everson Griffen (17 TKL, 4 SK, 1 PD, 1 FF), Fred Evans (18 TKL), Letroy Guion (10 TKL), Rookie Christian Ballard (7 TKL) are the backups and 7th round pick D'Aundre Reed has been a regular on the Game Day Inactive List.

The Linebackers are LOLB Chad Greenway (104 TKL, 1 SK, 1 PD), MLB E.J. Henderson (67 TKL, 2 SK, 3 PD, 1 FF) and ROLB Erin Henderson (44 TKL, 1 SK, 2 PD, 1 FF). Larry Dean (7 TKL), Kenny Onatolu (10 TKL) and Xavier Adibi are their backups

In the defensive backfield, the LCB is Asher Allen (38 TKL, 3 PD, 1 INT) and the RCB is Cedric Griffin (55 TKL, 8 PD, 2 FF). Chris Cook (20 TKL, 4 PD) and Marcus Sherels (14 TKL, 1 SK) are the Nickel and Dime package substitutions. Rookie Brandon Burton has been a game day Inactive and Benny Sapp (6 TKL. 1 PD) was recently acquired to make up for the loss of Antoine Winfield.

At SS, Jamarca Sanford (45 TKL, 4 PD, 2 INT) is the starter. Eric Frampton (12 TKL) is his backup, but will likely get the start at FS since Rookie Mistral Raymond (4 TKL) is the only player left after Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson went to Injured Reserve on Wednesday. Former Cowboy Safety Andrew Sendejo was signed on Tuesday.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This chart represents the Rankings for both teams Special Teams Units.

Vikings Rank Special Teams Rank Broncos
44.8 T-17th Punt-Avg(Gross) 7th 47.6
36.4 28th Punt-Avg (Net) 4th 40.9
8.8 21st Punt Ret-Avg 3rd 15.5
13.8 28th PR-Avg Allowed 15th 9.4
28.4 3rd Kick Ret-Avg 6th 26.8
24.8 22nd KR-Avg Allowed 14th 23.1
13/17 29th FG Made/Att 30th 13/18
-1.60% 24th Overall DVOA 6th 3.20%

The Kicker for the Vikings is Ryan Longwell. The 15th year Pro is 13 of 17 (76.5%) this year on Field Goal Attempts, with a long of 53 yards. His career long is a 55-yarder in 2007, so you have an idea of his range. Longwell has nailed all 25 Extra Point Attempts in 2011. His Kickoffs average landing spot is the 4 yard line. In 50 Kickoffs this year, 13 have gone for a touchback (26%). The other 37 were returned an average of 25.5 yards.

Punter and Holder is Chris Kluwe, who has punted 53 times this year for a 44.8 yard gross average. His Net average is 36.4 yards. Kluwe's longest of the year went 58 yards. He has placed 15 Inside the 20 and 14 of his punts have been Fair Caught. 31 of Kluwe's punts have been returned for an average of 13.8 yards, including a touchdown.

The Long Snapping Specialist for Minnesota is Matt Katula, who joined the Vikings last week after regular long snapper Cullen Loeffler went on Injured Reserve. Matt handled the snapping duties for the Baltimore Ravens for 5 seasons (2005-09).


The Punt Returner is Marcus Sherels who has 27 returns for an 8.8 average. He has called for a Fair Catch on 9 occasions and has a long of 53 yards. Greg Camarillo is the backup, but hasn't fielded a punt this season.


The Kick Returners have been Lorenzo Booker (19 KRs, a 23.7 avg, 68 Long), Percy Harvin (11 KR's, a 36.2 avg, 1 TD and a long of 104 yards) and Marcus Sherels (4 KRs, a 40.5 avg, and a long of 78 yards).

SERIES HISTORY


This will be only the 13th time these two teams have met. Minnesota leads the series 7-5 and they are 4-2 at the Dome. The very first time the Broncos and the Vikings played was during the 1972 season in Denver. The Vikings claimed a 23-20 victory that day. The last game between the two was a 22-19 Overtime Win at Invesco. Denver is 2-3 at the Metrodome.

The line in Vegas has Minnesota by 1.5 points.


THE BOTTOM LINE


This is a winnable game for the Broncos as long as they have their mean business on Sunday. Not to slight the Vikes, but they have a rookie quarterback playing, well, like a rookie. The star Running Back and 65% of the Offense has a bum ankle, so the league's 5th ranked Rushing Offense will suffer. The Defensive backfield is very thin also and will need all the pass rushing help they can muster. It may be enough that they have one of the NFL's best pass rushers in Jared Allen (13.5 Sacks). The Vikings also have the 9th ranked Rush Defense, holding teams to a 99.6 average. I am betting that we see the same game plan as the last couple of weeks from the Broncos--Run til they stop us and pressure the opposing quarterback. Sounds simple enough to me, it just needs execution.

Go Broncos!


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