(CBS4) – The Denver Broncos (3-6) are back from their bye week and the head to Minnesota to face the 7-3 Vikings. As of Friday, Denver is a 10-point underdog and are looking for their second road win of the season. Here are four matchups to watch for in Sunday’s bout.
Broncos Alexander Johnson vs Vikings Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has been on a tear this season. Cook leads the NFL with 991 yards and is the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week. With Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen out the last three games with a hamstring injury, Cook has inserted himself in the passing game. He’s had 16 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
The Broncos linebackers will have to keep an eye on Cook when the Vikings use him on screen passing plays. According to Pro Football Reference, the Broncos have given up 51 catches for 348 yards and a touchdown to running backs. Alexander Johnson led Denver with 13 tackles 24-19 win over the Cleveland Browns before the bye week. He’ll be assigned to stopping Cook on the passing plays.
Broncos Garett Bolles vs Vikings Everson Griffen
The struggles of Garett Bolles have been well documented. The Broncos left tackle has been called for 10 holding penalties this season. He’ll have a tough assignment against Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen who is second on the team with six sacks.
The Vikings also have the seventh best rushing defense. Bolles and the Broncos offensive line will need to open up running lanes for Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to keep Denver out of 3rd down and long passing plays.
Broncos Chris Harris Jr. vs Vikings Stefon Diggs
With Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen probably out with a hamstring injury, Stefon Diggs takes the spot as the top receiver. The fifth year pro has the ability to carry the passing attack all by himself. Diggs has caught seven passes for 140 or more yards three times this year, including a three touchdown performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6.
Chris Harris Jr. will be matched up against Diggs. He needs one interception to join Mike Harden as the only Broncos with multiple interceptions in eight consecutive seasons.
Broncos Tim Patrick vs Vikings Trae Waynes
The return of wide receiver Tim Patrick will help out the Broncos passing game that averages 199.6 yards per game and is ranked 28th in the league. Patrick suffered a hand injury in the first game against the Raiders and will be on the opposite side of Courtland Sutton.
Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes will be matched up with Patrick and has only one interception on the season. The Broncos can attack Minnesota through the air, as the Vikings give up 241.9 passing yards a game (18th in NFL).