Star tailback matchup? There was a time when a game featuring Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson would have spurred a week's worth of storylines about who deserved the title of the NFL's best running back. At the moment, neither Peterson nor Johnson can claim that label as the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans prepare for Sunday's matchup at the Metrodome. Johnson broke out for 141 yards in last week's loss to the Houston Texans, but he has totaled 40 yards in the Titans' other three games. The Vikings' rush defense (3.3 yards per carry) has been strong all season. Peterson, meanwhile, had his best performance to date last week (102 yards against the Detroit Lions) as he makes his way back from December knee surgery. Peterson insists he is not all the way back, and statistical analysis supports that assessment. He is averaging 1.9 yards after contact per carry this season after averaging 2.5 yards after contact in 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Vikings QB Christian Ponder could have a big day against the Titans' lowly pass defense on Sunday.
Ponder's protection: To this point, the Titans defense hasn't offered much evidence that it can knock Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder from his current bubble. Ponder is the only NFL starter without an interception, and the Titans' bottom-ranked pass defense has managed only one in four games. The Titans have only six sacks and opposing quarterbacks have an NFL-high 118.7 passer rating. It's early in the season to lock in on trends, but the Vikings' early prescription for offensive success -- safe, high-percentage plays -- doesn't appear threatened by this defense.
Hitting the road: The Green Bay Packers will play the first of three consecutive road games Sunday when they visit the Indianapolis Colts, their first such schedule quirk since 1998. Including the postseason, the Packers have won 10 of their last 12 road games, and their .778 regular-season winning percentage on the road since the start of the 2011 season is an NFL best. Since December 2010, the Packers' two road losses have been at the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, two stadiums known to be tough on visitors. This week, on the other hand, Colts acting coach Bruce Arians encouraged Colts fans to fight back against Packers fans taking over Lucas Oil Stadium.
Woodson vs. Luck: Defensive back Charles Woodson has played nine games against rookie quarterbacks since joining the Packers in 2006. He has eight interceptions in those games. Can Woodson add the Colts' Andrew Luck to that list? Luck has thrown four interceptions in his first three NFL games, but only one in the last two after the Chicago Bears got him three times in Week 1.
Stacking success: The Bears will make the dreaded road trip after a Monday night road game, but they should still be offended to be only 4.5-point favorites playing at the Jacksonville Jaguars -- who are 1-3 and have the NFL's worst offense and weakest pass rush. No team has averaged fewer than the Jaguars' 15.5 points per game, and the Bears' defense should have success rushing quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who has taken 12 sacks already this season. The Bears also have an opportunity to establish some momentum with their pass protection. The Jaguars have two sacks in four games this season. If the Bears truly turned a corner in Monday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys, they should win in a rout Sunday.