The Vikings rekindled their fading Super Bowl hopes last weekend with their stunning trade for Sam Bradford. Sunday, they begin the long road toward Houston in Nashville, where the Titans are again rebuilding after finishing with the NFL’s worst record in 2015. Prediction: 20-13, Vikings
Three story lines
Who starts at QB?
Coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t tip his hand. But learning an offense in eight days is a lot to ask, so the guess is steady Shaun Hill starts over Bradford.
Full steam ahead
CB Xavier Rhodes, MLB Eric Kendricks and DT Sharrif Floyd each missed time over the past few weeks. But all are expected to play, meaning Zimmer’s D is at full strength.
Ready to run
After adding RT Jack Conklin, C Ben Jones and RBs Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray this spring, the Titans will test the run defense, an issue at times under Zimmer.
Two key matchups
LG Alex Boone vs. Titans DL Jurrell Casey
Boone, already the tone-setter up front, could see plenty of Casey, whom the Titans move around in search of mismatches. Casey had 22½ sacks the past three seasons.
MLB Eric Kendricks vs. Titans RB Derrick Henry
Kendricks could be rusty when it comes to tackling after sitting out the entire preseason. That could be a problem against the rookie running back, who has 4 inches and 15 pounds on him.
Stat that matters
91.5 Passer rating for Titans dual-threat QB Marcus Mariota as a rookie in 2015. By comparison, Teddy Bridgewater finished his 2015 campaign with an 88.7 passer rating.
The Vikings win if ...
… whoever starts at QB takes care of the ball, star RB Adrian Peterson keeps ahold of it, too, and the defense stuffs the run so they can get after Mariota on third down.
The Titans win if ...
… their new coach, Mike Mularkey, can find a way to catch the Vikings off guard and hit them with some haymakers early, like the 49ers did in last year’s season opener.
Vikings win probability