Vikings vs Titans Game Preview
Two of the NFL’s rising contenders meet in a rare game between Minnesota and Tennessee. The Vikings have controlled the series in recent games having won six of their last seven although both are undergoing structural changes.
Tennessee has new coaches while Minnesota has a new quarterback and offensive coordinator as well. The two will use this game to continue to iron out kinks to their new systems in what should be a fun back-and-forth.
Five years into the Mike Zimmer era and Minnesota has yet to string together two winning seasons. They were the NFL’s best defence in 2017 but fell apart in the NFC Championship. They only got better in the offseason adding key players on defence and signing Kirk Cousins.
Cousins was the prized free agent and Minnesota made him the man with a three-year, $84 million deal that is fully guaranteed. The former Redskin has a lot to live up to and anything short of a Super Bowl run will be a disappointment.
Tennessee doesn’t have a new quarterback but it will feel like it as they swapped Mike Mularkey for Mike Vrabel. Matt LaFleur is also coming over as offensive coordinator from the Rams.
Vrabel will focus on sharpening the Titans’ D while LaFleur hopes to turn Mariota and the offence into something similar to the resurgent Rams. If it pans out, the Titans are a sneaky pick to make a deep playoff run.
Minnesota is once again in a position to win the game. The first team won’t get too many snaps but even the second unit is talented enough to get over Blaine Gabbert and whoever else the Titans pull out. Chalk for the Vikings.
Vikings vs Titans Head-to-Head Records
A Vikings-Titans matchup seems like a rivalry of epic proportions judging by their names but it is anything but. Minnesota has thoroughly owned Tennessee winning four of their five meetings and being 9-4 overall dating back to the when the Titans were still the Houston Oilers.
Their first game was in 1974. Minnesota blew out Tennessee 51-10, the most lopsided meeting between the two. Though they would alternate wins for their next seven games, the Vikings would outscore the Oilers 183-91 defeating them by margins of 41, 20, and 31 for their first three victories.
When the Oilers relocated to Tennessee, the rivalry got even worse for them as Minnesota’s record is 5-1 against them. Except for their last meeting in 2016, Minnesota’s victories have been by double-digits including a 23-point win in 2012.
With the current makeup of both teams, the rivalry should be closer. Minnesota still holds the edge thanks to their stout defence. But Tennessee is looking the best since their last victory nearly ten years ago in 2008.
Minnesota Vikings Recent History
The Vikings have consistently been a solid franchise. Their 54.1 winning percentage ranks ninth all-time. Although they can be considered as the greatest NFL franchise to still not have a Super Bowl. Minnesota is one of only two franchises to have been to four or more Super Bowls and not have won any.
Minnesota’s greatest decade came between the late ’60s and late ’70s where they would win 11 division championships and reach four Super Bowls. They were anchored by the infamous “Purple People Eaters” defensive line and led by quarterback Fran Tarkenton and coach Bud Grant.
The franchise would remain perennial playoff contenders and wouldn’t spend longer than four straight seasons without a playoff berth making them one of the most consistent in the last four decades. Commonly built around a strong defence, Minnesota continues the theme and will once again be hunting for their first Super Bowl these coming seasons.
Tennessee Titans Recent History
The Titans began as the Houston Oilers and were part of the original AFL. They would win back-to-back AFL Championships in their first two seasons. They wouldn’t have quite the same level of success playing in the NFL but they did have a few playoffs runs in the ’70s and ’80s.
The franchise is perhaps best associated with the Jeff Fisher era from 1995 to 2010. Under Fisher, the Titans won three division championships and made their lone Super Bowl appearance losing to the Rams in 1999. Following his departure, the Titans would alternate between being a fringe playoff team to a bottom-five team.
After a 2-14 season in 2014, the Titans would draft Mariota with the second overall pick and it would begin the franchise’s turnaround. Tennessee is now poised to make another playoff run and have their best team since they first rebranded as the Titans and went to the Super Bowl.
Minnesota Vikings Outlook
The Vikings fell short in 2017 but are returning with all major players in tow including all four All-Pro players with three coming from the defence. From top to bottom, this defence is stacked. The defensive line is at its best since the days of the Purple People Eaters. The secondary has bonafide stars in Harrison Smith (S) and Xavier Rhodes (CB).
Yet Minnesota got exposed by Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game thanks to some weaknesses in the secondary. General manager Rick Spielman is making up for that by drafting Mike Hughes in the first round. Hughes is a star cornerback in the making if he can stay away from trouble.
On offence, the Vikings swapped Case Keenum with Cousins. The new pivot will have an embarrassment of riches from running back to tight end but will have to make up for the weak offensive line. Minnesota spent a few picks for reinforcements but they won’t immediately fix what could be the downfall of this unit.
Tennessee Titans Outlook
Tennessee has a great outlook for the next few seasons even if they struggle in 2018. This is due mostly to having a tough schedule and the team still adjusting to their new coaches. They are switching from a run-heavy offence to a more balanced one under LaFleur.
Mariota will finally be able to utilize his skills as a versatile quarterback. Tennessee also added veteran running back Dion Lewis to replace the retired DeMarco Murray. The return of wideout Corey Davis and all five offensive linesmen also bodes well for the Titans who should see their offence improve.
The Titans also bolstered a middle-ranked defence with former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler coming over at cornerback and linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry coming via the draft. Tennessee will contend for the division title this season and maybe for more if they keep building.
Mariota is into his fourth year but he’ll likely still see a few snaps, especially as he and the first team need all the reps they can get to acclimatize to LaFleur’s schemes. Blaine Gabbert was signed in the offseason and he’ll battle sixth-round pick Luke Falk for control of the second team.
Tennessee has plenty of veterans in their second unit like Kenny Vaccaro sat safety and Michael Campanaro at receiver. Several positions are still up for grabs. While the Titans aren’t as loaded on their first team, the backups have a bit more depth. Minnesota is in a similar spot.
Cousins could see a few snaps but backup Trevor Siemian should be the main man. The offence’s second team is pretty solid with a mixture of vets and draft picks. On defence, the Vikings have a good problem as several key players like Terence Newman and Mike Hughes battle for open slots at corner.
Minnesota has the depth to match the Titans but also have a better offence and it’s why they win.