The Minnesota Vikings will be fighting for a playoff spot when they travel to Houston this weekend. The Houston Texans can lock up a first-round bye with a win. Playoff implications are interesting and all, but the real treat will be the head-to-head matchup between Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster.
Peterson has been the consistent gold standard for NFL running backs since he entered the league in 2007. He basically took the torch for the title of Best Running Back Alive from LaDainian Tomlinson. Peterson is closing in on 2,000 yards and has failed to reach 1,200 yards only once, in 2011, when he missed four games because of injury.
Peterson doesn't get caught from behind, has superb vision and runs with power at the line of scrimmage. Most impressive might be his ability to make defenders miss in small spaces. Peterson doesn't have the Barry Sanders-type juke, but he consistently leaves opponents grasping for air with subtle shakes of the shoulders and hips.
Amazingly, Peterson tore his anterior cruciate ligament last December and has a chance to break Eric Dickerson's NFL record of 2,105 yards one year later. He's in the running for league MVP.
Foster is trying to take the torch from Peterson. He broke onto the scene in 2010 with a career-high 1,616 yards and hasn't been stopped shy of 1,200 yards in the two years since. Foster wasn't a high draft pick and Heisman Trophy candidate like Peterson -- he went undrafted and sat behind Steve Slaton for one year.
Foster's running style is less glamorous than the 40-plus-yard runs that Peterson and Chris Johnson have. He doesn't have Jamaal Charles' speed or LeSean McCoy's elusiveness. But there's no hesitation to Foster's game, and he has bits of all those previously listed players. He's stronger than expected and doesn't look 228 pounds.
Foster is a workhorse back who's just as dangerous in the passing game. He's that consistent back who gets you 4 yards every touch, but he has been less explosive at times in 2012. Peterson has 20 runs of 20-plus-yards, and Foster has eight.
Both Peterson and Foster have been consensus No. 1 fantasy picks of late.
The Texans and Vikings are both run-first teams with something to play for this week. That means a lot of touches for Foster and Peterson, who will be on the same field for the first time outside of Pro Bowl games.
This is the running back matchup of the year.
Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.