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Vikings-Chiefs matchup of the day: Thursday

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By Christian West

Here's a key matchup to watch in Sunday's Vikings-Chief contest.

Vikings OLT Charlie Johnson vs. Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali

Charlie Johnson has had some struggles this season, both in pass protection and run blocking. He hasn't consistently moved defenders in the running game and has had trouble protecting the edge and QB Donovan McNabb's blind side.

This week, he'll face the toughest test of the season when he lines up across from Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali. The two faced off against each other last season when Johnson was playing left tackle for the Colts, and though Johnson's team won the game, Hali did sack Peyton Manning once.

Hali is one of the league's elite pass rushers, totaling 14½ sacks last season and having two sacks already this season. His speed and hands are his best assets, using both effectively to get the edge on tackles and attack the quarterback.

Hali will be a weapon on third down. If he can continue to get the pressure he has and sack McNabb and force him to throw sooner than he would like, the Vikings' third-down woes (13-of-36, 36.1 percent) will continue.

Backs and tight ends will be important. If Hali is allowed to go one-on-one with Johnson for most of the day, Hali will win fairly easily. If the backs and tight ends chip Hali and slow him down, it will make it much easier for the Vikings to throw the ball.

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