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Don’t Be Hasty, Minnesota

DON’T BE HASTY, MINNESOTA

By: Dan Bradley

 

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that the Vikings would be a half game out of first place in the NFC North heading into week 8, I’d say you were somewhere lost in the Sea of Confusion. I might’ve even called you crazy. The Vikings already have two more wins than they had all of last season. Sitting on 5-2, and at home Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Vikes appear to be in good shape for the foreseeable future. They are getting outstanding performance out of Percy Harvin. Adrian Peterson has returned to form coming off an ACL/MCL injury. Christian Ponder has the sixth-highest completion percentage among QB’s, and except for last weeks performance against the Arizona Cardinals, he has performed well above anyones’ expectations. And then there’s rookie kicker Blair Walsh, whose Week 1 heroics cemented him a spot on the team for the next decade, as long as keeps up the clutch performance. The Vikings look to have things in cruise control. And they couldn’t be making a bigger mistake by doing so.

Call me a skeptic. A doubter. A cynic. I don’t care; it won’t bother me any. But the simple fact is, despite the Vikings brilliant play this year (they could be undefeated if not for 4th Quarter Defensive breakdowns in Washington and Indy), it simply won’t last.

 

To this point, the Vikings have played one game against an NFC North opponent. They beat the Detroit Lions (or, as they may be known this year, the “Motor City Kitties,”) at Detroit in Week 4. They have yet to go against a particularly strong defense, such as that of the Bears (who they will play twice down the stretch on November 25 and December 9), the Seattle Seahawks (November 4), or Houston Texans (December 23). They also haven’t faced a high-powered offense such as the Green Bay Packers (they will square off the 2nd and 30th of December), or, as mentioned before, Chicago and Houston. 

 

The Vikings will also play four of their last six games on the road after a Week 11 bye. According to ESPN.com, the Vikings are currently 4-0 at home this year, but are 1-2 on the road. Road games have historically doomed the Vikings. With five of the next eight games being on the road, there is not much room for optimism, especially now that the Packers and Bears are hitting their stride. 

 

The old football axiom “Defense Wins Championships” will also leave the Vikings in the dark come playoff time. The Vikings defense has been impressively average this year, being middle of the pack is just about every defensive category. Again, the Vikings have not had to face any particularly dynamic offenses so far this year (except for Washington, which resulted in a loss).

 

Finally, the key to the Vikings’ performance down the stretch falls on the broad shoulders of the offensive line. The line has allowed Ponder to be sacked 16 times this year; just over 2 per game. This is the 10th highest total in the NFL. If they cannot improve their performance as the toughest stretch of the season rolls around, it will be almost as painful for Vikings fans to watch as it will be for Ponder as he takes hits from Clay Matthews, Brian Urlacher and J.J. Watt, who are all perennial nightmares for opposing QB’s.

 

Yes, the Vikings’ outstanding start should be applauded. But let’s not pop the champagne too early here. With a difficult, road-heavy schedule coming up, as well as a lack of gut-check games so far, the Vikings will likely be unable to hold up to the pressure. This writer predicts the Vikings will finish the year 7-9, losing the last six games and missing the playoffs. 

 

Note: This post was written as if it could appear on the Daily Norseman blog (www.dailynorseman.com)

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