The Vikings' backs are against the wall this week.
The season has started with a pair of disappointing, non-competitive losses, but the opportunity is still there to turn things around and at least regain a bit of respectability. Get a win this week over a good Titans team, and the Vikings can restore some of their lost pride. Plus, with Danielle Hunter potentially returning in Week 4 for a matchup with a struggling Texans team, the momentum would be there for the Vikings to get to 2-2.
Of course, they have to actually make that happen. And based on what we've seen from the Vikings over the first two weeks of the season, that seems highly unlikely. But who knows. The NFL can be a strange league sometimes, and the Vikings have a bit of reputation for playing well when everyone doubts them (and vice versa, as we've already seen).
A banged-up defense has a daunting task against Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, so the Vikings' offense is going to have to put up plenty of points – and not just in garbage time – if Minnesota is going to have a chance in this one.
Let's get to the predictions.
Will's pick: Titans 27, Vikings 17
Unfortunately for the Vikings, these first two weeks didn't look like a fluke. This is a team with major holes at guard, defensive tackle, and cornerback, with a struggling quarterback and some key injuries not helping things either. The Vikings are probably still going to win 5-7 games because they have plenty of talent and some young players should improve, but I can't pick them to win this week based on what I've seen so far.
Last week's pick: Vikings 30, Colts 24. Season record: 1-1
SI MMQB: Somewhat surprisingly, three of the six pickers from SI's NFL team – Conor Orr, Andrew Brandt, and Jenny Vrentas – are going with the Vikings at home. Seems like a bold call. Full picks here.
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Titans 23, Vikings 20
The contrarian in me planned to pick the Vikings all week. Teams with this much established talent usually respond before torpedoing their season at 0-3, and the Titans two wins came against so-so opponents with a fair bit of luck. The game is in Minnesota, if that matters anymore.
Then I Game Passed the Vikings loss to the Colts and realized it's the established talent that is part of the problem. Kirk Cousins is overthinking decisions. Eric Kendricks doesn't look like himself in coverage and his tag-team partner, Anthony Barr, is now on Injured Reserve. The Vikings safeties are busy spending all their time covering for the team's young cornerbacks. That leaves their run defense vulnerable, which is not ideal with Derrick Henry coming to town. When a team shows you they are bad for two straight weeks, sometimes you have to believe them.
Bleacher Report Staff: Titans 24, Vikings 20
Just two of B/R's six staffers are picking the Vikings in this one.
Mike Florio, PFT: Titans 24, Vikings 10
The Titans have played too well to barely win two games. This week, they're getting a team that suddenly have plummeted from contender to pretender to pathetic.
Michael David Smith, PFT: Titans 30, Vikings 20
The Vikings may be the NFL's most disappointing team so far this season. Ryan Tannehill will continue his strong early-season showing as Minnesota falls to 0-3.
Courtney Cronin, ESPN Vikings Reporter: Titans 31, Vikings 20
What to watch for: Will the Vikings' offense be able to keep up with Tennessee's scoring pace? Minnesota's defense has struggled to get its opponents off the field, and the lack of opportunities for its offensive playmakers not named Adam Thielen has been noticeable. Is this the week when the offense leans heavily on running back Dalvin Cook, and can quarterback Kirk Cousins finally involve rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and/or tight end Irv Smith Jr.?
Turron Davenport, ESPN Titans Reporter: Titans 28, Vikings 14
Titans QB Ryan Tannehill will finish with 300-plus passing yards. That might not seem bold, but here's something to consider: Tannehill has finished with 300 or more passing yards only three times since taking over in Week 7 last season. Defenses are focused on stopping Derrick Henry, which presents one-on-one matchups for the receivers. Tannehill and the passing game should have the advantage against a depleted Vikings secondary in those situations.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Vikings 23, Titans 17
The Titans are rolling at 2-0, while the Vikings are reeling. But the Vikings can't be as bad as they have looked. Even with the defense struggling, I think they will get back on track here. The Titans will lose for the first time. Upset special.
Mark Craig, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Vikings 24, Titans 22
This is one of those predictably unpredictable the-world-was-against-us-and-we-showed-them bounce-back games for the Vikings. They’ve been dismissed from relevancy but have not yet reached their give-up point. Translation: They’re still ticked enough to play far above their heads. Whether one of these types of games can happen in a lifeless, fan-free stadium that provides no home-field advantage remains to be seen.
Sam Farmer, LA Times: Titans 27, Vikings 23
The Vikings are at home, but they look lifeless. They need to get the job done on the ground, so it could be a big day for Dalvin Cook, but Titans get it done with dangerous mix of pass and run.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Vikings 24, Titans 20
The Vikings can't be this bad, can they? The Titans can't be this good, can they? Minnesota's defense is in a rough patch, struggling mightily against run and pass over the first two weeks. The key here at home for the Vikings will be a positive game script where they can control the game with Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison on the ground and Kirk Cousins is throwing efficiently off play-action. There's nothing scary about Tennessee's overrated defense, either. The streaky Cousins is due to be hot again, while Ryan Tannehill cools off a little on the road as the Vikings rise from desperation mode.
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