FOXBORO, Mass — The New England Patriots will have their work cut out for them in Week 13, as the Minnesota Vikings will roll into Gillette Stadiums for a clash of two teams that had deep postseason runs halted by the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
Tasked with arguably the toughest schedule in the NFL, the Vikings so far have posted a respectable 6-4-1 record, good for second place in the NFC North. They’re efficient in every phase of the game and certainly have gotten the attention of Bill Belichick with their play.
The Patriots head coach already issued some high praise for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, and during his opening statement from Wednesday’s press conference at Gillette, Belichick gave a thorough, ringing endorsement of his team’s upcoming opponent.
“This really has been an impressive team to watch. I think that Coach Zimmer has done, as usual, a tremendous job with his team. 13-3 last year, saw a little bit of them at the end of the year and then obviously this year being on the schedule we spent some time on them in the offseason, and it looks to me like they’re even better than they were last year. They’re a very, very good football team, they have good talent, they’re really well coached.
… I think Mike does a tremendous job with fundamentals, with their schemes they’re very, very challenging — particularly in the critical situations, third down, red area, two minute, things like that they’re very good. He’s a great coach and has been for a long time.
Offensively they (have) just a tremendous, explosive group of skill players. The receivers, the tight end, the quarterback, the backs. Everybody can, and does, make big plays. They move the ball and score points.
Very explosive in the kicking game, Coach (Mike) Priefer has done, as usual, a great job with that unit. Nobody’s scored more than they have in the last seven years in the kicking game. … They’re a very aggressive unit, and they do everything well.
Have a lot of good players, veteran players, young players, they have a good mix. Just really good in all three areas, playing well, impressive game against Green Bay on Sunday night, so we know it’s going to be a big challenge for us here.”
The Patriots currently own the second seed in the AFC, but with the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers among those still breathing down their neck, New England still has plenty of work to do if it wants a first-round bye this postseason. Save for a Week 15 battle with the Steelers, the Vikings present the biggest challenge for New England the rest of the regular season, and it’s clear Belichick knows how tall the task ahead of them is.
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