The Minnesota Vikings surprised everyone last season by getting into the postseason before getting smacked down by the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile the Houston Texans won their division but were knocked out in the divisional round for the second time in a row.
Both teams are hoping to contend for their division title and looking to take last season's success to the next level. Here are three things to watch when they kick things off at 8pm EST.
1) Can Christian Ponder throw the ball consistently deep? Last season saw him throw 75% of his passes under ten yards but the Vikings acquired Greg Jennings to give him a true deep threat. Of course, he needs to prove he can use Jennings. We may not see a ton of Ponder tonight, but it'd be nice to see better decisions and perhaps one deep throw.
2) Andre Johnson and some other veterans will sit out tonight, so it's a good time to see some of the young guys—especially DeAndre Hopkins. The hope is that Hopkins can be an effective weapon across from Johnson, something the Texans have lacked for some time. The rookie has had a solid camp and now the Texans will look to see what he can do when the lights come on.
3) The Vikings had what can only be described as a bonanza in the 2013 NFL draft, selecting Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd with their first round picks and then moving back into the first to select Unversity of Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. These three could form the cornerstone of a tremendous team as time goes on and Vikings fans will get a first look at them tonight.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and an NFL writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.