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Adrian Peterson's power running fueling optimism for Minnesota

Who will deliver epic performances in this week's matchups?

Air & Ground matchup of Week 4

Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX) -- The Vikings appear to be a rising force in the NFL, and this promising team will get a stern test on the road against the Broncos.

Instrumental in fueling that heaping helping of optimism in the land of 10,000 lakes is that Adrian Peterson appears to be in fine power-running form. Peterson posted a 126-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 31-14 stomping of the San Diego Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium in Week 3. Peterson has more rushing yards through three games this season (291) than he did after three games in 2012 (230) when he finished the season with 2,097 yards and earned league MVP honors. This is promising stuff if you're a Vikings fan (or, have Peterson on your fantasy football team).

The Peyton Manning-led Broncos offense is off to a sluggish statistical start. While the team has stormed out to a 3-0 start to the season, the offense has gained just 4.3 yards per play this season (ranking it last in the NFL). Thankfully for Denver, the defense has picked up the slack; the 4.2 yards per play allowed is the fewest in the NFL.

The Broncos have scored 74 points through three games, the fewest for a Manning-led team since the 2009 Indianapolis Colts started 3-0 while scoring 72 points. That Colts team finished 14-2 and lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XVIV.

One touchdown

Despite the presence of Peterson in the backfield, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater appears to have regressed from his encouraging rookie season. Through three games, Bridgewater has thrown just one touchdown pass. He has not topped 240 passing yards in any game this season and is averaging 168.3 passing yards a game. Bridgewater ranked in the lower third of the NFL in some significant categories this season: yards per attempt (6.82, 23rd), passing yards per game (168.3, 28th), touchdown passes (1, tied for 34th) and passer rating (80.1, 23rd).

Great Moments in Air & Ground History

Broncos 42, Vikings 21 (Week 1, 1984 season) -- Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway had one game in his illustrious 16-year NFL career in which he threw five touchdown passes, and it happened in his second season against the Vikings on a mid-November afternoon at Mile High Stadium. Elway threw two of those touchdown passes to receiver Steve Watson, and one each to Sammy Winder, Butch Johnson and Ray Alexander. The Broncos finished that season 13-3, but lost in the divisional playoff round to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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