By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — One thing is clear as the Patriots and Vikings prepare to face each other in Week 13 of the NFL season: 2018 is a whole lot different than 2017.

That reality applies to both teams, who have proven that much can change from one year to the next.

Last year, the Patriots boasted the NFL’s No. 1 overall offense and No. 2 scoring offense. And last year, the Vikings had by far the NFL’s best defense, both in terms of yards and points allowed.

Had the two teams met a year ago, it would have been a mighty clash of strength vs. strength. (That’s a matchup that some believed should have taken place in Super Bowl LII in the Vikings’ home stadium. Alas, this happened.)

This year, though, the picture is quite different.

The Patriots, while still effective, aren’t near the top of the league in any offensive category. The same applies to the Vikings’ defense. Here’s a look at where both teams rank in the NFL after Week 12.

OFFENSIVE YARDS PER GAME
Minnesota: 14th, 368.5
New England: T-8th, 388.2

POINTS SCORED PER GAME
Minnesota: 16th, 24.1
New England: T-7th, 27.9

YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME
Minnesota: 3rd, 314.7
New England: 22nd, 377.5

POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME
Minnesota: 10th, 22.4
New England: T-11th, 22.6

RUSHING YARDS PER ATTEMPT
Minnesota: 30th, 3.9
New England: 24th, 4.2

RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED PER ATTEMPT
Minnesota: T-3rd, 3.7
New England: 18th, 4.4

RUSHING TDS
Minnesota: T-26th, 6
New England: T-5th, 13

RUSHING TDS ALLOWED
Minnesota: T-4th, 6
New England: T-2nd, 5

PASSING YARDS PER ATTEMPT
Minnesota: 18th, 7.4
New England: 14th, 7.6

PASSING YARDS ALLOWED PER ATTEMPT
Minnesota: 13th, 7.5
New England: 5th, 7.1

PASSING TDS:
Minnesota: T-10th, 22
New England: T-16th, 19

PASSING TDS ALLOWED
Minnesota: 1st, 14
New England: 24th, 22

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
Minnesota: 16th, +2
New England: 9th, +4

The numbers show that the Vikings aren’t quite the same team as last year’s squad. (They do rank third in yards allowed, but they’re allowing 61 more yards per game.)

But equally as evident is that the Patriots aren’t overwhelmingly better than this week’s opponent in most areas. Minnesota’s biggest weakness is clearly in the running game, which will at least theoretically put more pressure on Kirk Cousins’ shoulders to be excellent in this game.

While reviews remain mixed on Cousins’ first season as a Viking, some of these numbers compared to his Week 13 counterpart may come as a surprise to some.

PASSING YARDS
Kirk Cousins: 5th, 3,289
Tom Brady: 11th, 3,031

YARDS PER ATTEMPT
Kirk Cousins: 21st, 7.36
Tom Brady: 17th, 7.54

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE
Kirk Cousins: 3rd, 71.1
Tom Brady: 22nd, 65.2

TOUCHDOWNS
Kirk Cousins: T-9th, 22
Tom Brady: 15th, 19

INTERCEPTIONS
Kirk Cousins: T-15th Most, 7
Tom Brady: T-15th Most, 7

PASSER RATING
Kirk Cousins: 9th, 101.9
Tom Brady: 16th, 96.3

Statistically speaking, the Vikings actually have the advantage at quarterback heading into Sunday. That is, as always, subject to change whenever a player makes a visit to Foxboro. (Cousins went 22-for-40 for 217 yards with one touchdown and one pick in his lone trip to Gillette in 2015.)

And that’s where the Patriots can find the great equalizer. They are once again having a dominant season at home, where they’re 5-0 and have won those games by an average margin of victory of 14 points. Two wins came by exactly 14 points, and another came by 31 points. Three of those wins came against teams currently in the playoff picture, and two came against current division leaders. Another came against a division leader at the time the game was played.

Simply put, the Patriots have been outstanding at home.

On the flip side, the Vikings have been decidedly mediocre as a road team. They’re 2-2-1 overall on the road, but one need only look at the two most recent Sunday Night Football games involving the Vikings to see the disparity. In Week 11 at Chicago on a Sunday night, the Vikings were outgained by 40 yards and outscored by five points. Cousins had arguably his worst game of the season. They trailed by 11 in the final minutes of the game, ultimately losing by five.

Just one week later, again on a Sunday night but this time at home, the Vikings rolled right over the Packers. The Vikings outgained Green Bay by 162 yards. Cousins had his best game of the season. The Vikings led by 10 into the final minutes of the game, ultimately winning comfortably by a touchdown.

The Vikings’ road wins have come against the Eagles (5-6) and the Jets (3-8). They lost at the Rams and Bears, and they tied at Green Bay.

So, if there’s one distinct area that favors one team over another, it would be the home Patriots against the road Vikings. (Though Cousins has been slightly better on the road.)

All other signs, though, point to a close game on tap for Sunday afternoon in Foxboro.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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