Dan Wiederer got inside information on the Vikings' Sunday matchup against the Texans from John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Here are three things you need to know:
1 Without one of the top four quarterbacks in NFL history, you might not beat the Texans this season.
Through 14 games, Houston has stumbled just twice. In Week 14, New England's Tom Brady had no trouble handling Houston's blitzes, throwing for 296 yards and four touchdowns to ignite a 42-14 Patriots blowout. Eight weeks earlier, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers lit up the Texans up for 338 yards and six touchdown passes in a 42-24 Packers victory.
"Those two losses weren't pretty," McClain said. "But when you take a step back, they ran into what I believe are two of the four greatest quarterbacks in history, both at the top of their games. I put Rodgers and Brady in that class along with Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana."
The Vikings also will be facing a Texans squad hungry to lock-up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, a goal the entire city has rallied behind.
"The road to the Super Bowl has never gone through Houston," McClain said. "Going back to the 'Luv Ya Blue' era with Bum Phillips, Earl Campbell, Elvin Bethea, they never had home field and lost two AFC Championship games in Pittsburgh with the feeling that 'Well, had we played this game in the Astrodome, we would have won.'
"And then in the Run-and-Shoot Era with Jack Pardee, Warren Moon, Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews in the late '80s and early '90s, they went to the playoffs every year. But they never had the home-field advantage."
2 The Texans might have the best chance of any defense this season to hold Adrian Peterson in check.
Houston ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 93.2 yards per game. Obviously, the Texans have yet to face a back as explosive as Peterson. But having the ability to consistently lock down against the run has been a big part of the team's success.
Even with linebacker Brian Cushing being lost for the season in Week 5 because of a torn knee ligament, the Texans have remained sturdy up the middle of their defense, with nose tackle Shaun Cody and linebackers Bradie James and Darryl Sharpton playing well. But ...
"This is the game Cushing would have helped the most," McClain said. "He would have covered Peterson on pass routes. He would have been the guy between the tackles. This would be the time they'd really need Cushing to try to contain Peterson. Because overall, they're just in awe of him."
3 Receiver Andre Johnson is back on the top of his game.
Hamstring issues in both legs hindered Johnson in 2011. A groin issue slowed him early this season.
Back in early October, after a four-game slump in which Johnson totaled nine catches for 164 yards, doubt began to creep in, with some wondering whether his dominance had disappeared.
Yet since Week 6, Johnson has been back to his old self. "Everybody was thinking, this guy turned 31, hit the wall and couldn't play anymore," McClain said. "But he didn't say very much, kept at it. And now he's on a rampage over the last nine games in which he's averaging 8.4 catches and 119.6 yards."