I've been looking forward to this game for a while. It will be a real test, a real measure, of how good both teams are. Titans and Vikings fans will both have a better appreciation and understanding of how good their teams really are after this one is over.
These teams are so similar. They have a lot of things in common, both personnel-wise and in their philosophies.
The Titans want to run the ball down the oppositions' throat. They have a good offensive line and a strong 1-2 punch with their running backs. Ditto for the Vikings.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans have a great defensive line and a front seven that can shut down the running attack from the other side. Ditto for Minnesota. "You can't run the ball against us and we dare you to throw it." That's the motto for each team.
If either team is able to control the line of scrimmage, that determines the outcome of the ball game. But I doubt if that will happen. Can either team impose its will on the other? It'll probably be a stalemate. So if that evens out, which it probably will, that leaves it to the passing game and to special teams.
Both teams have young gun quarterbacks sitting on the bench. Each team has an old, grey-haired, grizzly bearded veteran to take the snaps, hand offf, and occasionally chuck the ball downfield. Which team has the better passing offense? Flip a coin. Each team can nickle and dime it with short passes down the field.
Special teams. This scares me. The Titans have a very solid and reliable punter and a great kicker. I'm not worried about those spots. But the coverage teams scare the heck out of me. I've been predicting for a while that will cost us a game, and it's liable to happen anytime. If this game is as close as I think it's going to be, that might make the difference.
And now, back to a subject I promised you I'd have a few comments on.
Albert Haynesworth, the unblockable defensive tackle. Steve Hutchinson, a six-time Pro-Bowler, and the best guard in the league. They'll be head to head, eye to eye, facemask to facemask, mano v mano on Sunday. The immovable object standing his ground versus the irresistible force. Have you ever seen those nature TV shows where two mountain rams butt heads, with both of them lowering their shoulders and charging into each other with their horns?
I recall having a great sense of anticipation when Hutchinson was with Seattle a couple of years ago and they came to town. I was really looking forward to the Haynesowrth-Hutchinson matchup then, but both players were on the injury report prior to the game. Both of them played, but neither was at full strength. I'm looking forward to seeing them both at 100% on Sunday. It's something I've had at the back of my mind ever since Hutchinson signed with the Vikes two years ago.
Two other things to consider about Hutchinson are the guys who play on either side of him. The regular left tackle, Bryant McKinnie, is suspended. Some poor slob is going to have to take his place and have his lunch eaten by Kyle Vanden Bosch. How often will Hutchinson slide over to get a piece of KVB on his (KVB's) inside, leaving six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk to try to contain Albert? Or how many times do they leave their left tackle one-on-one with KVB and use a tight end or running back to help out? Probably a little of both. We'll see.
In any case, I'll be focusing my binoculars on #92 for a lot of snaps on Sunday. Hey, who did you think I'd be watching? Bobby Wade?
It should be a great game and a great barometer for the rest of the season.