Preview: Vikings vs. Dolphins
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Who: Miami Dolphins (1-0) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-1).
When: Noon Sunday.
Where: Mall of America Field at the Metrodome.
TV: CBS (WCCO, Ch. 4).
Line: Vikings by 6.
Coaches: Dolphins -- Tony Sparano (third year, 19-15); Vikings -- Brad Childress (fifth year, 36-29).
Series: Dolphins lead 6-4.
Last meeting: The Dolphins won 24-20 in Miami on Nov. 19, 2006.
At stake: After a nine-day layoff, the Vikings will try to rebound from their season-opening, offensively challenged 14-9 loss Sept. 9 at New Orleans. It's the first of four games the Vikings will play against the AFC East Division and the home opener of their 50th season. They'll wear throwback uniforms for the occasion. Miami is looking for a second consecutive road win after prevailing 15-10 on Sunday at Buffalo.
Vikings: CB Chris Cook (knee), CB Cedric Griffin (knee), WR Percy Harvin (hip) and DT Jimmy Kennedy (knee) are questionable. QB Brett Favre (ankle/back), RB Toby Gerhart (knee), LT Bryant McKinnie (finger) and C John Sullivan (calf) are probable. WR Sidney Rice (hip) is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
Dolphins: LB Channing Crowder (groin) and DE Jared Odrick (ankle) are out. DE Ikaika Alama-Francisc (illness) is questionable.
Five things to watch
Pounding the ball: The Dolphins' offense starts with a powerful line and RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who pair together in the Wildcat formation and combined for 127 yards on 31 carries (4.1 average) last week. Keep them in the check, and the Vikings would like their chances against QB Chad Henne, even with WR Brandon Marshall causing potential mismatches on the perimeter. The Vikings' defensive line rotation against the Saints was overblown -- LE Ray Edwards sat out six snaps, RE Jared Allen and UT Kevin Williams four each -- and the unit appeared worn down by the final drive, when Pierre Thomas had runs of 5, 5, 4 and 10 yards after averaging 3.5 per carry the first 3½ quarters. If anything, more snaps may be taken off the interior starters, especially if Kennedy is available.
Airing it out: QB Brett Favre's 4-of-12 meltdown in the second half at New Orleans renewed questions about the Vikings' work-in-progress passing game, but the Dolphins' secondary is vulnerable. They benched CB Sean Smith last week in favor of Jason Allen, who has good size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) but never has earned full-time starting duties in five NFL seasons. Extensive Cover-1 and Cover-3 looks can expose Allen and Vontae Davis (5-11, 203) -- if Favre can find his receivers. WR Greg Camarillo has another 10 days in the system and figures to take on a larger role than the seven snaps he got against the Saints. The way WR Bernard Berrian has played so far, some of Camarillo's snaps might come at his expense.
Stalling the rush: The Vikings' protection unit got more credit than perhaps it deserved against the Saints, who mostly rushed three in the first half but nonetheless pressured Favre eight times, hit him six and sacked him once. LT Bryant McKinnie dislocated the ring finger in his right hand in the second half, had to undergo surgery to fix the finger and will wear a special glove to protect the finger on Sunday. He'll have his hands full with Dolphins ROLB Cameron Wake, as will RT Phil Loadholt against LOLB Koa Misi -- smallish speed rushers who can give big offensive tackles trouble around the edge. Loadholt has to bounce back from a brutal Week 1 performance that saw him rack up four pressures allowed, two penalties and $10,000 in fines.
Adrian ratio: Too much was made of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's limited second-half workload against the Saints, given Favre's struggles and an up-and-down night for the offensive line. However, that doesn't mean the Vikings won't go to the ground early and often against a Dolphins team that will be without Odrick and Crowder in the front seven. Like Loadholt, Sullivan has to play better after struggling to get movement against the Saints. NT Randy Starks is coming off a career year and an excellent run defender. But he's transitioning to a new position and is one of the smaller 3-4 nose tackles (6-3, 305) that Sullivan will see.
Bringing the pressure: A steady diet of chips helped keep Allen in check against the Saints, and he won't get a break this week against LT Jake Long, the former No. 1 pick and two-time Pro Bowl selection. Edwards has a challenging matchup on the other side against RT Vernon Carey, too. This same front seven led the NFL in sacks last season, though, and the Dolphins' first trip into the rocking Metrodome with Henne under center should play into the home team's hands. Stop the run, and Vikings DC Leslie Frazier will have plenty of opportunities to dial up blitz patterns.
It's hard to imagine the Vikings' passing game being any worse than it was in New Orleans, especially considering the Saints boast one of the NFL's top cornerback pairings and the Dolphins may have one of the worst. If the Dolphins stack up to stop Peterson -- and they probably will -- Favre can make them pay through the air. Miami's best chance may be to keep tossing the ball to Marshall (6-4, 230) against the Vikings' undersized cornerbacks. That seems unlikely to be enough, though, unless the Vikings offense lays another egg.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Dolphins 17.