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Vikings vs. Bengals: 5 things you can count on

The Vikings look to continue their march to the playoffs when they take on the Bengals on Saturday afternoon.
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The Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals are making a late push for the playoffs and someone's path is about to be disrupted as the two teams battle each other on Saturday afternoon.

The Vikings and Bengals both enter with identical 7-6 records and are looking to earn a crucial victory as the Vikings look to hold onto their playoff spot and the Bengals look to force their way into a loaded AFC playoff picture. Here's what you can count on... 

1. Nick Mullens' turnover potential

The Vikings will go with Nick Mullens at quarterback after Josh Dobbs struggled to move the offense over the last three games. While Dobbs tossed five interceptions in his final three starts, there's no guarantee that Mullens will be an improvement on Saturday.

Mullens' last extended run as a starter came with the San Francisco 49ers and the results weren't pretty. According to Pro Football Focus, Mullens posted a 5.8 percent turnover-worthy play rate while starting eight games for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo and owns a 4.4 percent turnover-worthy rate in his career.

Mullens also struggles under pressure after posting a 7.0 percent turnover-worthy play rate in his last extended stint with the 49ers.

2. 2019 LSU Tigers reunion

Saturday's game features a marquee matchup as Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase will battle for the first time as opponents after starring on the LSU Tigers during their historic run to the national championship in 2019.

Jefferson has endured a lost season after battling a hamstring injury since Week 5 and suffering a chest injury during last week's win over the Las Vegas Raiders. While Jefferson has been absent, he will go up against a Cincinnati secondary that recently lost starting cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt to injured reserve and is the sixth-best matchup for any receiver in Week 15 according to PFF.

Meanwhile, Chase has faced adversity with the loss of fellow LSU teammate Joe Burrow, who suffered a season-ending wrist injury. But Chase hasn't missed a beat, catching 18 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown in three starts with Jake Browning.

With Chase facing the third-best matchup among wide receivers in Week 15, the two members one of the most prolific offenses in NCAA history will be primed to put on a show in Cincinnati.

3. Jake Browning's revenge game

Browning was the last man standing before a Vikings training camp practice in 2021 and has that mantra again, making his fourth start in relief of Burrow on Saturday afternoon.

A former UDFA signing by the Vikings in 2018, Browning hasn't been the disaster that some may have predicted, throwing for 285.3 yards per game, four touchdowns and two interceptions over his last three starts.

The good news for Cincinnati is that Browning is playing well and has helped the Bengals win their last two games. The bad news is that he'll go against Brian Flores's defense, which seems to be getting stronger after last week's shutout against the Raiders.

The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr. pointed out that Zac Taylor has used a blend of play-action and an increased screen game to help Browning succeed. But if the Vikings defense can shut down the passing game, it could lead to another defensive masterclass in The Jungle.

4. Ty Chandler's big opportunity

Vikings fans have pulled their hair out as Alexander Mattison has battled his way through a frustrating season, but many will finally get their wish as Ty Chandler will get his first career start after Mattison was ruled out with an ankle injury.

Chandler is an intriguing prospect after being selected by the Vikings as a fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft but his 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash hasn't been able to get on the field.

Part of the reason for Chandler's usage (or lack thereof) is his struggles in pass protection, but there's no doubt there is a playmaking element to his game with 49 carries for 203 yards and a touchdown this season.

Going up against a Bengals defense that ranks eighth worst in rushing yards per game (127.2) and tied for third worst in yards per attempt (4.7), Chandler should have a chance for some explosive plays. That could be enough to help the Vikings keep the chains moving and allow Chandler to have a bigger role down the stretch.

5. Another low-scoring battle in Cincinnati

The Vikings continue to run on vibes and an elite defense after last week's win over the Raiders, but it feels like something is about to give. The matchup against the Bengals isn't as intimidating without Burrow under center but Taylor has done a good job of adapting to Browning's strengths to keep the Bengals' playoff hopes alive.

The key to this game will be limiting turnovers and generating big plays. The Vikings are 1-6 this season when they lose the turnover battle and after last week's anemic performance against the Raiders, it's hard to see the Vikings rallying back – even with a healthy Jefferson in the lineup.

The Vikings should be able to push for a playoff spot in the final weeks of the season, but this feels like a game where the Bengals narrowly escape and Minnesota enters a pivotal three-game stretch against NFC North opponents to close the regular season.