Here's a key matchup to follow in Sunday's Vikings-Patriots game in New England:
Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. Vikings offensive line
There was a time when you would read about Wilfork butting heads solely with an opponent's center. But he has moved around this season into different techniques, much like Haloti Ngata in Baltimore. Wilfork is extremely stout at the point of attack and can manhandle smaller, quicker linemen if he gets leverage. But he's surprisingly nimble and quicker off the snap for a man his size.
The Patriots have played him at the five-technique (on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle) as well as on the nose, shaded into the "A" gap (between the center and guard) and the "B" gap (between the guard and tackle) this season.
"I think he's a tough matchup for most offensive linemen," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "There are a lot of guys he has a size and power advantage on. And a lot of the guys that might have a chance to match up with his size and power, then lose on his quickness."
C John Sullivan has been dealing with a calf injury but should play Sunday. If not, it will be Jon Cooper filling in, as he has done in two games this season. The guards have been the same all six games — Steve Hutchinson on the left, Anthony Herrera on the right. Hutchinson is battling a quad injury and sat out practice on Wednesday. At tackle, OLT Bryant McKinnie and ORT Phil Loadholt have been mainstays the past two seasons, although both have had their share of inconsistencies at times.
Wilfork was dominant against the Chargers last week, often lining up at left end, despite being credited with only one tackle. He clogged running lanes, messed up blocking schemes and freed things up for others to make plays as the Chargers gained only two yards rushing per attempt. With the Vikings being a heavy righthanded running team (Adrian Peterson has rushed 13 more times to the right than left), don't be shocked to see Wilfork lined up opposite Loadholt, who has been too penalty-prone for the Vikings' liking so far in his second season.