Two up, two down from the AFC North. We can’t sweep the division-Pittsburgh got lucky with their timing-but the Vikings take their 4-win streak into the bye and show that they really have embraced “next man up”…maybe better than any team in the NFL!
Okay, quick apology: it’s been impossible for me to formulate these bits as quickly as I used to, but I am still trying to sneak in bits of time to work on ’em. I HOPE to crank ’em out weekly again in the second half, but I won’t promise it just yet. I will post all that I can squeeze out of my furry, horned noggin…that I guarantee.
That said, the Vikings really seem similar to the AFCN teams we’re playing against this season: tough, mean defense, grinding, but still capable of flash plays when the opportunity arises. We have had inconsistency at QB, RB, WR, and OL…but have won 3 times as many as we’ve lost, just in time for some needed healing and rest. Guys and gals, I gotta tell ya: I’m loving it.
Especially because it feels like the best is yet to come.
Alrighty, then…on with the babble-fest!
Compared to last season, this team seems to get tougher with every major injury…so we oughta be like rabid badgers for the second half of the season!
QB- This is gonna seem kinda mean toward a guy that’s been solid throughout our win streak, but I’ve been referring to our current starting QB as “Late” Keenum, much like how I refer to one safety as “Almost” Sandejo. Yes, he’s made more plays than not and still is 7-3 in TDs vs. INTs…and he has the basic instincts to use the pocket, scramble, and what-not…but he’s about 0.5 seconds in his decisions/delivery from being a truly good QB. Many of his incompletions and “wtf?!?” throws would have been brilliant plays just a hair earlier. Maybe I’m just mean-spirited, and should appreciate the wins and the fact that Case is outplaying his own previous stats…but I can’t see us winning in January with him, barring a major improvement. As much as I appreciate what he’s done and the obvious chemistry he has with our offense, either of our recovering starters should be upgrades…if/when they return to the field.
RBs/FB- Shades of Buccaneers past, we really do seem to have our own “Thunder/Lighting” pair going on, here…and the storm’s getting stronger. The loss of Cook for the season has become the background for a story involving two ‘backs stepping into their roles in a growing offense. Right now, these guys are Keenum’s best friends, even more than Thielen, Diggs, and Rudolph are. By making the run game dangerous (and more versatile than with AD), defenses are having to deal with multi-level threats and can’t truly sell out against just the run or the pass. While Ham adds a bit of blocking and RB play here and there and we don’t know yet how Mack Brown will fit…our running offense is pretty damned good, even if it’s not “Cooking”.
WRs/TEs- First of all: Adam Thielen remains one of the BEST stories in the NFL, and even better that he’s our WR. Seeing our most dangerous WR (sorry, Diggs, you keep missing games) able to keep getting open week after week despite increasing coverage is just…amazing. He’s almost Cris Carter-esque, except he doesn’t score all that often. He does set up scores for everyone else, though; he’s the ultimate team player. Diggs remains awesome, and it was great seeing him back in action…but I admit that I almost wondered if he should’ve been left with a constant rotation of frozen veggie bags being held against his junk ’til the Redskins game. In the meantime, Rudolph, Wright, and Treadwell are getting more grabs…and Morgan really got on the radar last Sunday! The “next men up” have been answering the call admirably, and should be ready to tear into the Redskins next Sunday.
O-Line- So, I read that we have 2 of 7 NFL OTs that have given up no sacks this season. That boggles my furry mind. After the Kalil and Clemmings disasters along with the only slightly less tragic issues at RT, the additions of Reiff and Remmers have been night-and-day different than what we’ve seen in too many years. Easton, Elflein, and Berger have also shored things up exponentially better than in 2016, with obvious results. Sam, Case, and (I’m guessing) Teddy should all buy these guys every damned thing on their Amazon Wish Lists this Christmas.
D-Line/LBs- I’m actually wondering of Zimmer just refuses to feed Griffen on Sundays until he gets a sack. A veteran player that’s been “paid” rarely shows that kind of hunger, and I wonder if he can keep the sack streak alive all season…? That said, QBs are already having to dodge Joseph, Hunter, and Johnson as well; I kinda feel for those poor bastards. Similarly, opposing ‘backs are seeing a LOT of Kendricks and Barr, with those two always among the leading tacklers. While Gedeon has largely been quiet, I’m certain he’ll pick up the system from the guys around him and be another regular defensive highlight addition. This group is just wonderfully fuggin’ MEAN.
CBs/Safeties- I’m convinced that Trae Waynes is a test for Vikings fans. He makes regular mistakes, gets too many penalties, and seems like the weak link of the secondary…but then, he makes a series of great open-field tackles, gets the occasional game-deciding interception, and seems to get better as games go on. I remind myself that he gets a ton of targets, because Xavier Rhodes has truly become a shutdown corner, and most QBs just won’t throw much in his direction. Newman remains dangerous youthful and amazing as a field general. Meanwhile…”Hitman” Smith is getting picks, sacks, and a ton of tackles. Sandejo returns from his brief suspension after the bye, and seems like he’s getting more solid as the games go on. I can’t name another secondary I’d rather have…!
Special Teams- I think there’s a curse with extra points in this league, because I’ve seem many solid kickers (including Forbath) either miss wide or doink them off the uprights with strange regularity. That said, Forbath is basically money on field goals while Quigley remains…competent. We’re still pretty damned good at punt/kick coverage in general, and Sherels may break one any ol’ time.
Coaching- As much as the first half of Sunday’s game was pretty painful, it’s always worrisome to play a desperate team with new, young talent. Against both teams, the defense eventually overwhelmed them and the offense would find ways to make points. Zimmer and his trusty cohorts really do seem to be all over the game calls…so my concern is whether any of the staff is poached in the offseason.
Officiating- I guess karma balanced things between the two games: the interception that should’ve been pass interference against Baltimore may have allowed for Trae Waynes to “get away with one” against the Browns. I find most officials to miss countless holding and PI calls, so…meh.
Conclusion- How many of us, honestly, would have predicted that we’d have a strong divisional lead going into our bye…especially after either of the losses? I think that we match up pretty well with essentially any team in the league right now, doubly so if we get either of our real starting QBs back. The bye will hopefully bring the squad back to near 100% health (among the active players, obviously), prepping the Vikings for what should be a pretty vicious second half of what’s been a pretty impressive season so far.
This team is more solid, mentally and in depth, than any time in years…so get some rest, boys, and get back to work being the first team to host its own Super Bowl victory!!