Patriots vs. Advance Vikings: Five matchups that will determine the Thanksgiving matchup

It’s a shame this Patriots-Vikings matchup comes in such a short week because it’s fascinating to watch. A few more days of dissection could have been fun.

Even if you were to dig into it very briefly, you can find the possibilities of by Bill Belichick winning the club is more realistic than you expected. I did. And, spoiler alert, I’m choosing them to do exactly that.

Before we get into the reasons, let’s acknowledge that the Patriots will need to get a tough win at some point just to get to nine wins, which still might not be enough for them to smell the postseason action. This game in Minnesota is…eke-able. More, at least on paper, than some of the other tough matchups left on their schedule: Buffalo twice, Miami and Cincinnati at home.

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Do you have to have it, then?

Not quite. But it can be had. And for that reason, this one might be more significant for the Patriots than the Vikings.

Minnesota has the NFC North almost closed. They are in good shape at 8-2. They’re a playoff team, even if they were to lose on Thanksgiving. That’s almost a foregone conclusion.

Yes, they are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Cowboys. But this is bigger for the Patriots because without him, they face an uphill climb just to make it to the tournament.

Let’s go through the matchups to see how they can take their winning streak to four…

Duel that will decide the first part

Bill Belichick vs. Justin Jefferson

Criticize their decisions as a coaching staff. Point out that your team may not be what it once was in terms of avoiding self-inflicted mistakes. But is there any coach in the NFL that you trust more to take down the main weapon of the opposing offense when that weapon is by far their main weapon?

Curran: The Patriots penchant for shootouts is amazing to behold

Belichick’s secondary seems well-suited to frustrating Jefferson with double teams because they have a lot of interchangeable parts in the back. Whether Jefferson is lined up wide or in the slot (where he sees about a third of his plays), he expects a variety of defenders to throw his way, particularly in third-down situations. and red zone.

With Kirk Cousins ​​potentially having a hard time buying enough time to find Jefferson (more on that in a minute), the matchup that could end up having the biggest impact this game is Belichick vs. Dalvin Cook. But if the Vikings want to make this a run-heavy game, the Patriots should be ready.

Although they have been beaten by opposing Baltimore and Chicago running games with dynamic run threats at quarterback, they have allowed just 3.85 yards per carry to all other offenses. Cousins ​​won’t be mistaken for a dynamic threat anytime soon.

Pairing that will surprise you

Patriots offense vs. Vikings defense

At this point, regardless of the opponent, a clean and efficient passing performance by the Patriots that yields points can qualify as a surprise to their fans. But that may be just the thing they can throw together, especially since the Vikings are hurt at corner.

Rookie Andrew Booth, who has had a tough season even when healthy, just injured his knee against the Cowboys and will miss the game. His rookie teammate Akayleb Evans (replacing Cam Dantzler, who is on IR) will miss the game with a concussion. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson has experienced a bit of a resurgence in his career at Minnesota, but Thursday looks like a very small position group for them.

Meanwhile, even when they have a full complement of defenders, the Vikings and their zone coverages have struggled to stop game-action passing attacks. The Patriots have been reluctant to use a lot of game action this season, but they did so seven times in Week 11, completing six passes for 98 yards.

Cassel: How the Patriots can succeed offensively against the Vikings

If you want to continue like this, this would be a good week to try. The Vikings are allowing the fourth-highest completion percentage in the NFL on game action attempts. They are also allowing the eighth-highest quarterback rating and the 10th-most yards per attempted play action.

That game-action attack for the Patriots may be helped by Minnesota’s ability to run the ball. Watch for the availability of stud defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. He’s questionable with a calf problem. Since he initially suffered the injury, he has missed three games and the Vikings have allowed 4.8 yards per carry in that time.

The Vikings also allowed the seventh-most yards after contact with opposing running backs this season, so this Turkey Day matchup could be an opportunity for Damian Harris Y ramondre stevenson to banquet. (I know I’m sorry.)

Pairing That Will Bring You Joy

matt judon against the endorsement of Christian Darrisaw

His name is Blake Brandel, but why give him the top spot here when you’ve most likely never heard of Darrisaw? (If you keep track of the draft, you know Darrisaw was someone who could have been a fit for the Patriots in the early rounds if they’d had their eyes on a tackle.)

Out with a concussion, Darrisaw’s loss is enormous. He is the No. 3 tackle in football right now, according to the Pro Football Focus ratings. Without him for most of last week’s game against the Cowboys, Cousins ​​was sacked seven times. Two of those were credited to Brandel along with two additional quarterback pressures.

Judon is the best pass-rusher the Patriots have, so it would make sense to try to give him one-on-one opportunities on Brandel’s side. But if Deatrich Wise is coming off the offensive left, he too should have all kinds of opportunities to go after Cousins.

Pairing that will take years off your life

Yodny Cajust v. Danielle Hunter

…That is if Cajuste is healthy enough to play. The appeared in the injury report on Wednesday with a calf issue that now has him officially listed as questionable for this game. If he can’t go, then it could be Connor McDermott… recently said goodbye to the Jets’ practice squad — who is getting significant reps very quickly after returning to the team that drafted him in 2017.

not ideal. Not against this contingent of cutting-edge runners.

Za’Darius Smith is one of the most efficient pass-rushers in the game right now, ranking second only to Judon in PFF’s pass-rusher productivity metric (which measures pressures per play weighted toward sacks). However, Smith could be Trent Brown’s problem, as around two-thirds of his rush passes come from the offensive left side. It’s Hunter who may have the benefit of facing Cajuste or McDermott.

Either way, the Patriots will need to have a plan to help with their tackles. Attacking them in the line of scrimmage with a tight end or back… Using action games… Going back to the screen game… Using pocket plays like the one last week that gave Hunter Henry a 20- catch-and-run against the Jets… Matt Patricia should be willing to do anything and everything he can to slow down the other side’s top two pass-rushers. Especially with the Patriots’ right tackle job still being such a gigantic question mark.

Duel that will determine the result

Kirk Cousins ​​vs. Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick

This is a game that can be won with another dominant defensive performance. So how can the Patriots dominate the man known as Primetime Kirk (10-18 lifetime in primetime games)? Gambling man coverage. And go after him.

Fortunately for the Patriots, that’s what they want to do every week. And luckily for the Patriots, they’re very good at both.

The Patriots are among the league leaders in man coverage percentage, ranking near the top of the NFL along with the Giants (under former Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale) and Dolphins (under former Ravens coach Patriots cornerback Josh Boyer). When that good coverage has been combined with the pass rush they’ve been taking, they’ve become the No. 1 defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders DVOA.

It’s a formula that should still work come Thanksgiving. Cousins ​​is the 29th-ranked quarterback in the NFL when it comes to ranking against man-to-man coverages, according to Sports Info Solutions. He ranks 28th in yards per attempt and completion percentage against man-on-man looks, according to SIS.

And if the Patriots can pressure Cousins, watch out. They should be able to do it at a relatively high rate since for the season (even with Darrisaw available for 10 games), Cousins ​​is pressured at the eighth-highest rate in the league (37.6 percent) among 39 qualifiers. When he’s under pressure, Cousins ​​completes just 42.3 percent of his passes (sixth-worst in football), and his rating drops from 95.9 when he stays clean to 64.4, according to PFF.

Although it’s a short week, the Patriots had plenty of time to prepare for the Vikings, relatively speaking. In Week 11 they had the Jets, whom they had played only a few weeks earlier in Week 8, immediately after their bye.

With a significant amount of work on the Jets already in the can, that meant they were able to get down to business in Minnesota in earnest during their layoff. It would be surprising if they didn’t have a plan lined up for Cousins ​​and the Vikings that would keep this game close, if they don’t win it outright.

Prediction: Patriots 17, Vikings 13

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