Photo credit: Joe Bielawa
Author: Joey Carr
Prior to the season’s start, many people, including myself, predicted that the upstart Minnesota Vikings would be one of the surprise squads that would sneak their way into a playoff spot come January. They were getting Adrian Peterson back from a year long hiatus, sophomore quarterback Tedy Bridgewater looked ready to improve on his rookie season, and the defense had a young, stable foundation that was above average the year before. All of the pieces were present for this Vikings team to compete with the St. Louis Rams or an NFC South team for a wildcard spot. Well, 10 weeks in to the NFL season, the Vikings are 7-2, in first place, and are more than capable to capture their first NFC North Title since the Brett Favre days in 2009.
There was wide speculation and agreements that the return of Adrian Peterson would spark an otherwise dormant Vikings offense that had plenty of weapons, but needed another piece to bring it all together. Well, low and behold, AP was exactly what the doctor ordered for Minnesota. As soon as he stepped on the field for Minny’s first game, it was evident that Tedy Bridgewater and the rest of the offense were stagnant no longer. While it’s true they lost their first game to the abysmal San Francisco 49ers, everything since has been flowing nicely, as they’ve gone 6-1 since, and it’s mostly in part to the large role Peterson has played in the Vikes offense this year. He currently leads the league in rushing yards with 961, and is averaging over 100 yards per game, which has enabled Tedy Bridgewater to be a much more effective passer. He’s (Bridgewater) not making nearly as many mistakes as he did in his rookie campaign that saw him throw 12 interceptions in just 10 games. His rating is up, yards per game have increased, and he’s certainly giving his receivers better chances to haul in passes.
Speaking of receivers, possibly one of the more surprising factors to the Vikes 7-2 record has been first year wideout Stefon Diggs out of Maryland. Diggs was taken with the 146th pick in last year’s draft, and was expected to carve out a minimal role with Minnesota’s offense this year. However, so far, his production has been anything but minimal, as he has compiled over 500 yards receiving along with a pair of touchdowns thus far. He’s undoubtedly been one of the brighter spots of this Vikings team, and should remain to be a big producer for Tedy Bridgewater and the offense. To go along with Diggs, Mike Wallace has also shown that he’s back to being a worthy receiver in this league. After an unsuccessful stint with the Dolphins, Wallace was shipped up north to Minny for Greg Jennings, and so far he’s proved that the Vikings were the clear winners of that trade, even if the Dolphins were trying to get rid of Wallace’s monster salary. While he hasn’t quite produced like some thought he would, he’s been a serviceable receiver that accumulates at least 30 yards every time he’s out on the field. Third year man Cordarelle Patterson on the other hand has disappointed to say the least after a couple seasons that saw him explode for big play after big play. Due to his dismal production as a receiver, he’s
been downgraded to kickoff returner, but he’s still providing excitement for this Vikings team with one kickoff return for a touchdown this season. The rest of the receiving corps consists of Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson, who both have over 100 yards receiving on the season and remain viable options in the passing game. Overall, the Minnesota Vikings offense, with the exception of Adrian Peterson, is comprised of average players who seemingly come together every game to form a reliable and sustainable offense for head coach Mike Zimmer.
Maybe the number one reason the Vikings have succeeded this season has been the stellar play of their defense. Anthony Barr and Terrance Newman lead the D, and so far have been good enough to keep Minnesota in games and have forced a fair amount of turnovers. The strong point of this defense is the secondary, however, which boasts two solid cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes and Terrance Newman. The secondary as a whole has only allowed 228 passing yards per game, which ranks in the top 10 in the league and is a vast improvement from last year. While they’ve only intercepted 6 passes, they’re still limiting the damage that the opposing quarterback can cause with steady coverage and well timed pass breakups. The run defense isn’t too shabby either, as the front seven and linebacker corps are only giving up 100 yards a game. As a whole, the Minnesota defense is only allowing roughly 330 yards per game, and if they can sustain that number, they should find themselves in good shape heading into the postseason.
All in all, this Vikings team has something special about it. They’re not the high powered offensive juggernaut like the Patriots and they don’t have a shutdown defense like Denver or Carolina, but they still find ways to win games. While it’s not always pretty, how they win doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is the number of wins in the win column at the end of the season. If Adrian Peterson, Tedy Bridgewater, and Stefon Diggs can keep pacing the offense with 25 points per game, then the defense should be able to take care of the rest. However, they have yet to play their long time division rival Green Bay, and those two games should determine if the Vikings have what it takes to make a playoff run this year.
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