Head coach Kevin O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips are disciples of Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. A lot of their offense is run out of 11 personnel, with one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers. A staple of theirs is the wide zone run.
On a wide zone run, each offensive lineman runs in the same direction horizontally. This forces defenders to try to outrun the offensive linemen to their marks. If the defense flows too aggressively with the offensive line, it creates wide-open running lanes for the running back.
The Vikings have spent most of the season trailing behind on the scoreboard, so they have only rushed the ball a league-low 73 times. However, their 4.6 yards per carry is good for 10th in the NFL. Starting running back Alexander Mattison has heated up with over 90 yards rushing each of the last two weeks and newly acquired Cam Akers had an impressive debut last week with six touches for 51 yards.
Minnesota’s passing game is about timing and play-action. Kirk Cousins is a rhythm quarterback who depends on his receivers to be in the right place at the right time. If the running game is humming, Cousins is deadly off of play-action and can stretch the field vertically. He has one of the most skilled groups of pass catchers in the league with receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison as well as tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Jefferson is perhaps the most well-rounded receiver in football and will likely produce regardless of how the Chiefs defend him. Hockenson will look to feast in the short to intermediate middle of the field, while Addison is a burner who can take the top off a defense. The Chiefs’ defense will have to take advantage of the Vikings’ glaring weakness on offense, their offensive line.
Cousins has been sacked 10 times this season and has taken 24 QB hits. When his timing is thrown off, Cousins tends to hold on to the ball too long and becomes turnover-prone. He has thrown four interceptions and has lost one fumble thus far. The Chiefs’ defensive line has been excellent this season and will have a chance to control the line of scrimmage and keep Cousins under duress.
If the K.C. defense can achieve that, it will have plenty of chances for sacks and turnovers. It will also force Minnesota to abandon the running game, which it has so often this season. The Vikings offense can score quickly and often, so K.C. will have to keep its foot on the gas throughout all four quarters.