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Vikings-Saints matchup of the day: Thursday

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Posted Dec. 15, 2011 @ 6:27 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Here's another key matchup as the Vikings prepare to host the Saints in a Week 15 tilt in Minnesota:

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Saints front seven

Adrian Peterson gets set to make his return to action after missing three games with an ankle injury, and he'll be doing so against a Saints defense that has given up some big rushing games — just not recently. Including last week's shutdown of Titans RB Chris Johnson, the Saints have allowed their past three opponents to 73, 87 and 59 yards. In the 10 games prior, though, they had only had two games in which opponents had rushed for fewer than 103 in a game.

The Saints have done a good job of shuttng down cutback lanes in recent games. That has kept quicker runners such as Johnson in check. They also have had some success against more physical backs. Although Michael Turner had a nice game against them in Week 10, the Saints did a decent job corralling the Bucs' LeGarrette Blount and a better one containing the Giants' Brandon Jacobs.

Although the linebackers can be a bit slow to fill gaps and a bit small to take on bigger lead blockers, the defensive line has compensated with some strong play. NT Shaun Rogers has been a nice addition, shutting down inside runs, and rookie DE Cam Jordan has improved over the course of his first season. The return of MLB Jonathan Vilma from a knee injury has been a big lift for the defense in recent games.

The Vikings are a decent run-blocking group, though hardly dominant. Peterson is likley to be a bit sore and less powerful than his healthy self, but he still should be able to break a few tackles and run through some defenders. The Vikings will use him, along with Toby Gerhart and Percy Harvin (who has lined up frequently in the backfield), as a measure to slow down the Saints' explosive offense. Controlling the clock and avoiding turnovers is about the only way the Vikings can win this game.

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