Patriots

5 Minnesota Vikings players to watch against the Patriots on Thanksgiving

The Patriots and Vikings are set for a primetime Thursday night battle. Here's who to watch on the Minnesota side.

After beating the rival New York Jets in spectacular fashion on Sunday, the Patriots are set to kick off back-to-back Thursday night games.

The first one is on Thanksgiving against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings are 8-2, but it’s not exactly clear how good they are. All but one of Minnesota’s wins have been decided by eight points or fewer. And the Vikings just got steamrolled 40-3 by the Cowboys last week.

Still, they’re a talented team with a knack for winning close games. They have the best record of any opponent New England has faced yet.

Here are five Minnesota Vikings players to watch on Thanksgiving.

OL Blake Brandel

The Vikings will likely be without starting left-tackle Christian Darrisaw for the second straight week. Darrisaw missed practice on Tuesday with a concussion.

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This is a huge deal for Minnesota, because Darrisaw has been enjoying a breakout season and is one of the highest-graded linemen in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Without him, dealing with the Patriots pass rush which features linebacker Matthew Judon, the NFL’s sack leader, gets even harder.

Backup Blake Brandel gave up a pair of sacks last week after Darrisaw left the game.

RB Dalvin Cook

A balanced and prolific back, Cook is top-10 in the NFL in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler has the ability to break long plays, like the 81-yard touchdown he scored against the Bills.

He’s also averaging 5.1 yards per carry thanks to his ability to bounce off and make defenders miss.

LB Jordan Hicks

Hicks is Minnesota’s leading tackler.

He’s had a pair of games where he recorded 14 tackles and made his presence felt all over the field. He’s also had a pair of games where he only had three tackles.

The Vikings are 2-2 when he has six tackles or fewer.

WR Justin Jefferson

Jefferson’s leaping, one-handed catch in the final two minutes in Minnesota’s comeback win over Buffalo was one of the more memorable catches in recent years.

That alone makes him a player to keep an eye on against the Patriots defense.

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But, there’s also Jefferson’s production to factor in. He’s already topped 1,000 yards receiving and is on pace for 1,858 by the end of the year. He’s tied for the league lead in catches over 40 yards, and second in the league in catches over 20 yards.

It’s hard to find many big-play receivers who have been better than Jefferson this year.

DB Harrison Smith

The two active players with the most interceptions are on opposite sides Thursday night.

New England’s Devin McCourty is tied with Minnesota’s Harrison Smith with 33.

McCourty almost increased his total last week when Zach Wilson threw a pass right to him, but McCourty dropped it.

Keeping an eye on which player will record an interception first might be fun.

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