Adrian Peterson and the Vikings will try to hand Peyton Manning and the Broncos their first loss of 2015.
The Denver Broncos (3-0) take on the upstart Minnesota Vikings (1-2) at Sports Authority Field.
It’ll be Teddy Bridgewater’s toughest test. The Broncos’ defense is playing at a near-perfect rate; Bridgewater relies heavily on Adrian Peterson. When he drops back to pass, though, he’ll have to deal with a Broncos front that boasts DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, and more.
Peyton Manning is eying another multi-touchdown game after a slow start to his 18th season. He’ll seek to find targets like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders downfield.
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Here are three keys to the game for both the Vikings and Broncos on Sunday:
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1.Deny Denver’s defense the momentous turnover
The Broncos have come up with fourth-quarter turnovers that have helped them seal the deal in each of their first three games. The Vikings, on the other hand, have protected the ball well with only three giveaways. They’ll have to take extra care of the ball near the end of the game, which may be tricky if they are trailing.
2. Keep Peyton on the bench with Peterson
The Vikings don’t want to get in a shootout. They need to limit the Broncos’ offensive opportunities and control the pace of the game. Minnesota has done this effectively each of the past two weeks, thanks to Peterson’s efforts running the ball (4.9 yards per carry in 2015). He is still the NFL’s single biggest difference-maker at the running back position, so the Vikings are likely to keep leaning on him against the undefeated Broncos.
3. Intercept at least one pass
Manning’s passing hasn’t been pristine. While he’s still one of the league’s supreme signal-callers, his physical limitations at age 39 have led to an interception in each of Denver’s first three games. Minnesota must take advantage of the throws Manning tries to drive into tight windows. Talented Vikings safety Harrison Smith should be on high alert.
1. All eyes on All Day, all day
The Broncos currently boast the NFL’s sixth-best rushing defense in terms of yardage. They’ll need run-stuffers like Sly Williams and Vance Walker to keep it up against the best back in the NFL. And they’ll need linebackers and safeties to help when Adrian Peterson inevitably makes a few plays on skill alone.
2. Respect Teddy’s mobility
Peterson should do most of the running for the Vikings on Sunday. That doesn’t mean their quarterback can’t tuck and scramble if need be; and he might need to when Denver brings Ware, Miller, and the rest of the swarming Broncos defense. Linebackers better be ready to spy No. 5.
3. Give one back 25+ carries
Denver’s offense has already repealed its run-heavy playbook in favor of a more shotgun-heavy attack. Still, head coach Gay Kubiak wants to know if his mix-and-match line can gel and run block. Expect the league’s worst rushing attack to test the league’s 25th-best rushing defense plenty.