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By: Aj Mansour \ KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - The Minnesota Vikings (3-1) are preparing to square off this weekend against the Tennessee Titans (1-3) and looking forward to kicking off the second quarter of their season at home. While the Titans head in to Minneapolis with one of the worst records in the league, the weekend could easily set up as a trap game for Minnesota if they are not careful.
It's always easier to stay focused and prepare to play a team like San Francisco or Detroit that was a playoff team last season, but it takes a higher level of discipline to take that same intensity into preparing to face a team that heads in as one of the worst in the league.
Here are some things that you should know about this week's opponent, the Tennessee Titans...
Sitting with a 1-3 record through the first four weeks of the season, the Tennessee Titans lead the league in points allowed per game yielding a crazy 37.8 points per game to the opposition. In fairness, they have played some high powered offenses but at no point is it ok to allow 34pts, 38pts, 41pts and 38pts in consecutive weeks to open the season.
Tennessee allows 285 yards per game and 2.5 touchdowns per game passing. Facing the run, Tennessee has not been much better. They are allowing 136 yards and over one touchdown per game to opposing runningbacks.
We're just piling on now, but the Titans defensive unit has only sacked the opposing quarterback six times, they only have one interception and have recovered only one fumble. All in all, the Tennessee Titans defense stinks!
Christian Ponder should have time to sit in the pocket if he so chooses and be efficient as he has been all season so far. With their team at 3-1, it won't take much for the home town crowd to get involved and make things even harder for the Titans on both sides of the ball. In fact, over the past few seasons the Titans are 3-8 when playing indoors.
The one exception to this rule is obviously going to be the Titans/Lions game but that was such an outlier that I'm choosing not to cosider it (yeah, yeah...shame on me).
Through the first three weeks of the 2012 season, Titans runningback Chris Johnson had posted only 45 yards and no touchdowns. Once a 2,000 yard rusher (2009), the dobber was officially down on Chris Johnson who found himself placed on the bench of Fantasy Football teams across the nation and was well on his way to realizing the same fate on his real-life football team. Then, inexplicabbly, in week four Johnson tripled his previous output and posted 141 yards (the 29th 100yd game of his career) against a Houston Texans defense that, at the time, was ranked in the top two rush defenses.
"Maybe they weren't expecting us to run," Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday. "I just think there were more opportunities [for Johnson]. He did start off running better right from the beginning as far as hitting a couple of plays."
Back on the radar of opposing defenses, Chris Johnson has to be taken seriously once again. It's obvious that the talent is there, but the Titans success on the ground may rely more on Johnson's attitude and the success of their offenseive line than anything. It's a tough task for the Titans as they square off against a Minnesota defense that is near tops in the league and has a history of success performing against the NFL's top backs.
In the last five years, the Vikings defense has faced seven runningbacks that had finished the previous season in the top five for rushing. At the time, all of these running backs were proven commodities who rolled in to play the Vikings with their confidence riding high. Looking at all seven of them, not a single one was able to crack the 100-yard mark and only one of them found the endzone one time. In fact, against these top backs, the Vikings defense allows 48.2 yards per game and .14 touchdowns per game on average.
Chris Johnson may not be considered an elite running back any more but as the Texans saw last weekend, the danger for him to have a breakout game is still very real. If the Vikings can control Johnson and the Titans running game, it will force Tennessee to lean on an aerial attack that is suspect in many areas.
Early in the first quarter of last weekend's game against the Texans, Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker left the game with a shoulder injury after dislocating his non-throwing (left) shoulder for the second time this season. Locker, who is doubtful for this weekend against the Vikings, may be the better long-term option for the Titans but looking at this week in particular, backup QB Matt Hasselbeck may very well cause the Vikings more problems.
Last week against Houston, Hasselbeck and the Titans passing game struggled to estabish much of anything. Finishing the game 17-of-25 for 193 yards and two touchdowns, Hasselbeck was sacked three times en route to a 38-14 Titans loss.
At age 37, Hasselbeck is entering his 14th season as a pro. On Wednesday, Hasselbeck told Tennessee area reporters that he finds success in establishing a "good tempo."
"I'll definitely push [the tempo]," Hasselbeck said. "From the time our runner is tackled until we snap the next ball. I like pushing that .I think it puts pressure on the defense and puts pressure on their play-caller, and I think it gives us an advantage."
So far this season, the Vikings have struggled when teams throw in a series or two of no-huddle. So it will be interesting to see what Munchak and Hasselbeck have in store.
The Vikings manage to contain Chris Johnson and Matt Hasselbeck shows his age...Ponder manages a solid game and AP finds the endzone twice while eclipsing 100 yards. - Vikings 34 - Titans 17
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN