|Antonio Candreva||Teddy Bridgewater|
|Age: 27||Age: 22|
|Position: Attacking Midfield||Position: Quarterback|
|Height: 5 ft 11 in||Height: 6 ft 2 in|
|Weight: 159 lbs||Weight: 210 lbs|
|The talismen of the two clubs-- the two players expected to deliver the goods.
Candreva is a pacey attacking player with excellent dribbling, passing, and shooting skills. As Lazio's most valuable player, commanding a market value of nearly 30 million Euro, he has outstanding field stature and presence, productivity, and fitness, as evidenced by his nearly 30 caps for Italy. A constant scoring threat, also leads by example by helping out defensively at all times.
Bridgewater is a quarterback having just completed his rookie season with Vikings. He has good mobility in the pocket, protects the ball well, has solid arm strength, and showed excellent accuracy down the stretch. Most importantly, he scores highly on the "intangible factor" that characterized such earlier NFL greats, like Brett Favre-- able to make big plays in unorthodox manners even against the odds.
|Felipe Anderson||Cordarrelle Patterson|
|Age: 21||Age: 23|
|Position: Attacking Midfield||Position: Wide Receiver|
|Height: 5 ft 10 in||Height: 6 ft 2 in|
|Weight: 152 lbs||Weight: 220 lbs|
|Two young players-- incredible potential, but struggling to make things click.
Lazio paid a massive 9 million Euro for the then 20 year old Anderson, a prospect rated so highly that he was considered to be the now world-reknowned Neymar's equal while teammates at Santos just a few short years ago. Anderson has shown recent signs of emergence, with a recent and impressive first-half brace against Inter proving his quality. But he's struggled massively for consistency, looking off the pace in many of the games in which he's featured. Anderson is a player with world-class potential, just waiting for a break out.
Patterson is a similar story. His massively big play potential in college earned him a first round selection from Vikings in the 2013 draft, along with a hefty contract. A promising rookie year, in which Patterson scored touchdowns in a multitude of ways-- via electric kick returns, long rushes, and excellent receptions-- gave way to a second season in which he not only failed to perform, but actually fell down the depth chart, eventually working his way out of a starting position altogether. Patterson is a player with All-Pro potential-- he just needs that mental breakout period to set him on his way.
|Stefan de Vrij||Xavier Rhodes|
|Age: 22||Age: 24|
|Position: Central Defender||Position: Cornerback|
|Height: 6 ft 2 in||Height: 6 ft 1 in|
|Weight: 172 lbs||Weight: 210 lbs|
|Up-and-comers already playing at a high level.
After his monumental World Cup Finals campaign with Holland in 2014, the conclusion of which saw him named as starter in the all-tournament team, de Vrij found himself making a move from boyhood club Feyenoord to Roman club Lazio. After a shaky first few games, de Vrij has barely put a foot wrong, and has wound up being the stable backbone of the backline that the club had hoped he'd develop into. At only 22 years old, the sky is the limit for Stefan de Vrij.
Xavier Rhodes followed a similar path. Reknowned at a young age in college, Rhodes found himself drafted in the first round by Vikings. There was a brief period where Rhodes had to become acclimated with the stronger, faster players in the NFL, and he made some mistakes during this time. But once he found his footing, Rhodes-- in the back half of the 2014 season-- put in numbers on par with any other cornerback in the entire league. And, like de Vrij, Rhodes hasn't even hit the prime of his career yet-- the best days are easily yet to come.
|Senad Lulic||Everson Griffen|
|Age: 28||Age: 27|
|Position: Wide Player||Position: Defensive End|
|Height: 6 ft 0 in||Height: 6 ft 3 in|
|Weight: 172 lbs||Weight: 273 lbs|
|Club veterans bridging the old guard to the new.
Having spent the better part of a decade plying his trade with various clubs in Switzerland, the Bosnian Lulic found his way to the capital club in 2011. A wide man who can play either wing, or even fill in at left back, Lulic's versatility and consistent performances-- marked with occasional flashes of brilliance and opportunism, such as his critical, winning goal in the Coppa Italia derby match-- make him a valuable leader in the dressing room, and one with much more to give in the years to come.
Everson Griffen was drafted by Vikings in 2010, and was a capable contributor in the team's defensive line rotation, recording 4, 8, and 5.5 sacks from 2011 through 2013, to go along with 67 tackles. Once the indomitable Jared Allen departed for Chicago, Griffen's productivity exploded, as he recorded 12 sacks and 39 tackles, along with 16 assists in 2014. Like Lulic, Griffen has been with the club several years, and while both players lack total superstar status, they are the kind of dependable performers that the teams count on for leadership.
|Filip Djordjevic||Charles Johnson|
|Age: 27||Age: 25|
|Position: Center Forward||Position: Wide Receiver|
|Height: 6 ft 1 in||Height: 6 ft 2 in|
|Weight: 165 lbs||Weight: 215 lbs|
|Two players on the bubble; can they be counted on to produce?
As a long-time Nante player, Djordjevic acquired a reputation as a ruthless goal scorer, hitting the net 59 times in 181 appearances. His first season at Lazio is in progress, but so far it has been rather hit and miss; he takes up menacing positions, and did score a hat trick against Palermo in September. But often times he seems to be drifting during matches, struggling to get involved. The athleticism and pedigree is certainly there, but can Djordjevic be productive enough to serve as Lazio's go-to center forward?
Charles Johnson bounced around the fringes of Packers and Browns before being picked up by Vikings in September. He made an immediate impact, not only displacing the struggling Cordarrelle Patterson, but hauling in a respectable 31 catches for 475 yards and a pair of toughdowns in the process. No one doubts his raw athletic ability, but questions remain about his hands-- dropped passes figured somewhat prominently into his time as a starter-- and whether he can parlay a starting role into a consistent, season-long performance. Can he be productive enough to be a key player for Vikings offense in 2015?