Bengals: 3 things to watch vs. the Vikings in Week 1
By Riley Thomas
2. Winning run game and controlling time of possession
Quite possibly the most important factor in this contest will be the run game. Minnesota’s offense is centered around their star running back Dalvin Cook, who had a career-high 1,557 rushing yards last season.
Joe Mixon is looking for a bounce-back year himself after sustaining an injury last season. Mixon has always been a talented back, and this is really the first year where he will likely be an every-down, workhouse tailback.
Whose run game is most effective will be dependent on run blocking. As mentioned, both teams had bad offensive lines last season. The difference here could be Cincinnati’s offensive line comes in healthy while Minnesota is missing a key piece.
Christian Darrisaw was the Vikings’ first-round selection, and there’s a lot of hype surrounding him after his dominant season at Virginia Tech. In college, Darrisaw had one of the highest PFF grades in recent memory last season and was a dominant run blocker. No Darrisaw could hurt the Vikings’ run game quite a bit.
Furthermore, Cincinnati’s defensive line has more playmakers against the run in comparison to Minnesota. Cincinnati has Hubbard with an 11.7% run stop percentage and Reader with 10.9%. While the Vikings’ best run stopper statistically is Michael Pierce with 9.1%.
Out of the two starting running backs, Cook is clearly superior to Mixon. This creates really an equal battle. Minnesota’s offensive line has a tougher defensive line to face compared to Cincinnati’s o-line. But the Bengals defense is tasked with tackling a tougher back than the Vikings are.
Both teams have their own specific concerns defensively as they are both facing off against explosive offenses. Another way to offset a good offense is to win the run game battle and control the time of possession battle.
Sometimes the best defense is keeping your defense off the field with your offense controlling the pace of the game. Cincinnati and Minnesota could both look to control the clock by establishing the run.
If either team dominates in the run game, they are in a great position to win the game.