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Key Matchups for Each NFC North Week 4 Game

Around the division

Minnesota Vikings (0-3) @ Houston Texans (0-3) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)

Limiting the big plays deep down the field. 

The Vikings have let receivers beat them deep a lot through the first three weeks of the season. Minnesota now matches up against Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, and Brandin Cooks. All players that do well in deep passing plays. 

Fuller and Cooks have the speed to get behind the defense. After watching the Packers, Colts and Titans find open spaces in a vertical passing attack, the Texans should have a similar plan. 

The dilemma for Minnesota will be the amount of blitzes it decides to send against Houston. The Vikings enter the week in the bottom five of the league in sacks, however, the Texans allow pressure to four-man rushes a lot. If the Vikings get pressure without a blitz it’ll allow them to help their young cornerbacks with extra help over the top. 

Minnesota will most likely still send blitzes, it’ll have to get there because if Watson is able to evade pressure as he’s known to do, it can lead to a one-on-one deep shot or him using his legs for chunk plays. 

Indianapolis Colts (2-1) @ Chicago Bears (3-0) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, CBS)

Chicago establishing an early lead

The Bears have needed two comebacks to reach their undefeated record. Chicago needs to come out and play well out of the gate for multiple reasons. Nick Foles starting might allow for a better start because it appeared Mitch Trubisky was pressing to start games, knowing he had a short leash on his starting job. 

Forcing the Colts to play from behind and throw creates more opportunities for the Bears defense. Indianapolis offensive line is one of few that matches up well with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. Nevertheless, if the Bears are able to build a lead, it opens up the pass rush a lot more unlike neutral situations, or even when the Colts run the ball with the lead, it limits those defenders’ impact for Chicago. The more Philip Rivers throws means the more chances to take advantage of one of his commonly aggressive throws.  

Let David Montgomery take on a full workload and limit the amount of times Foles has to make plays seems like the best attack for the Bears against a solid defense. 

New Orleans Saints (1-2) @ Detroit Lions (1-2) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)

Don’t let Jeff Okudah get picked on

Drew Brees certainly doesn’t have the arm that he used to. However, his football IQ and Sean Payton’s offensive mindset hasn’t wavered. Brees and Payton are smart enough to target a rookie cornerback in Jeff Okudah. 

Okudah has the skills to be a top cover corner one day, but it’s still a bit early for that. If the Lions leave Okudah on an island all day, they’re not going to enjoy the result. 

PFF has rated each of Okudah’s coverage grades below a 33.5 grade in its system. Detroit has its hands full in stopping Alvin Kamara, if he beats the Lions like other teams, it is what it is. However, if the Lions leave Okudah in a place he can’t succeed, that’s on the coaching staff if it leads to a loss against the Saints. 

Atlanta Falcons (0-3) @ Green Bay Packers (3-0) (Mon. 8:15 PM EST, ESPN)

Figuring out the receiver for Jaire Alexander to cover

PFF’s top rated cornerback through three weeks has been Green Bay Packer Jaire Alexander. Alexander and the Packer defense face off against Atlanta’s air attack that has not missed a step thus far. Despite all three dealing with injury, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage appear to be ready to go for Sunday night. 

So who does Alexander primarily cover? Jones, one of the greatest receivers of all time or Ridley, who has arguably been the best receiver in the 2020 season? That’s going to be the interesting choice for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. 

The choice also matters as Kevin King and slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan haven’t come close to Alexander’s level of play. King, who is much bigger than Alexander, might be better suited to take on Jones because of the size matchup, and the fact Jones has missed the previous game with a hamstring injury. Leaving Alexander to shadow Ridley and bracket Jones might be Green Bay’s best plan of attack for Monday. 

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Brady Vernon

Brady Vernon is a recent graduate of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree through Gonzaga University. He is an avid sports fan with aspirations of being a NFL Beat Reporter or a role in a NFL front office. Follow him on Twitter @BradyVernon

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