The Vikings are undoubtedly glad to be back home after losing three road games in four weeks, and they’ll face a Dolphins team that has won just once on the road this season. As Kirk Cousins and Co. shake off a couple of subpar performances, the Vikings will keep their playoff hopes in good shape.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Stefanski steps in
Interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who was elevated from his quarterbacks coach job after the Vikings fired John DeFilippo, will call plays for the first time. Stefanski, thought to be the runner-up to DeFilippo for the coordinator job last spring, effectively has a three-game audition to make his case for the permanent job.
Cousins looks to rebound
The Vikings quarterback has thrown for only 409 yards in the Vikings’ past two games, as the Patriots and Seahawks based their game plans around taking away Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings could have a chance to reboot their passing game against the NFL’s 25th-ranked passing defense.
Dolphins try to avoid ‘Miracle’ hangover
The Dolphins are fresh off the “Miami Miracle” — the last-second touchdown the Dolphins used to beat the Patriots on the game’s final play. They’ll try to emerge from the euphoria more effectively than the Vikings could after the “Minneapolis Miracle.”
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Dolphins WR DeVante Parker
Rhodes, who seems to be returning to full health following his hamstring injury, could shadow Parker, a fellow Miami native and Teddy Bridgewater’s former high school teammate. Parker, a first-round pick in 2015, has struggled this season and comes into the game battling a shoulder injury.
Vikings LT Riley Reiff vs. Dolphins DE Robert Quinn
Quinn, the former Rams defensive end who had 19 sacks in 2013, is tied with fellow defensive end Cameron Wake for the Dolphins’ team lead with 4½ this season. He’ll face Reiff as the Vikings try to protect Cousins well enough for him to test a young and banged-up Dolphins secondary.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
32 The Dolphins’ third-down conversion percent this season, which ranks 30th in the league. The Vikings have the NFL’s top-ranked third-down defense.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They can rediscover a rhythm on offense after a coordinator change, give Cousins time to attack the Dolphins secondary and prevent Miami from establishing the run. In Week 14 the Dolphins ran for 189 yards against the Patriots and the Vikings gave up 215 rushing yards to Seattle.
THE DOLPHINS WILL WIN IF…
A defense that ranks third in the league in takeaways can coax Cousins into a few mistakes, while quarterback Ryan Tannehill is able to string together drives against the Vikings defense. If running backs Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake, who have combined to rush for 1,171 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry, get going, that could help slow down the Vikings pass rush.
Prediction: Vikings win, 24-14
Win Probability: 60 percent