Will the Minnesota Vikings Win the NFC North?
Overcoming a Midseason Setback
The Vikings great play this season may be surprising some, but their fans thought they were about to see it all come to a screeching halt after getting blown out at home by the Green Bay Packers. Star running back Adrian Peterson was slowed by Green Bay, but he showed that he could not be contained forever. His heroic week 12 performance got the Vikings back on track, as they have stormed out to an 8-3 record through 11 games in the 2015 NFL regular season. Some may argue that Teddy Bridgewater is simply a game manager, but in the coming weeks he will have the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. An array of star level talent on both offense and defense is what has fueled the Vikings surprising season so far. With big individual performances and great team play, the Vikings have excelled so far. Highlighting the performance and skillsets of the Vikings stars, will help NFL fans to realize how capable the Vikings are of getting the job done in the final weeks of the season.
Who gets it done on offense for Minnesota?
The obvious answer here is running back Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings' offensive attack goes well beyond just their running game in 2015. Rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been a huge addition to the Vikings offense this season, after their passing game has struggled in recent years. On an offense that is only scoring 21 points per game this season, the impact of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is felt due to the balance in Minnesota's attack. The Vikings have four different pass catchers who have registered 19 or more receptions so far this season. The Vikings' offensive focus on running the football, further balances their offensive attack with Adrian Peterson leading all their offensive players with eight rushing touchdowns this season. The 36 receptions and four touchdowns by tight end Kyle Rudolph are good for second on the team in touchdowns scored by individual players. Having Mike Wallace as a deep threat opposite Stefon Diggs, adds to the Vikings' offensive balance despite the fact that they have not yet produced at a high level.
It is Teddy Bridgewater who ultimately gets it done for the Vikings offensively, even though they are not going to win many shootouts with high scoring opponents. Bridgewater's efficiency and prowess at the quarterback position make it possible for the Vikings to continue to grow together as an offense on a weekly basis. Bridgewater's leadership is what will determine the Vikings' offensive ceiling, as he puts in the extra work with his receivers in an effort to get Mike Wallace back to the star form that earned him such a significant contract in Miami. With an array of weapons to work with offensively, Bridgewater has a chance to elevate his team to the status that some of the other spread teams in the NFL have achieved in recent years. It is still Adrian Peterson's team though, as the star running back is looking to have his great career span two different eras where the Vikings have been contenders in the National Football Conference.
Star Power on Defense
The Vikings star power on defense is the result of their fantastic team speed on that side of the ball. Speed on the edge is evident with Everson Griffin's efforts this season rushing the passer from the defensive end position, along with the depth provided at the position by Danielle Hunter. While the Vikings do have 37 year old cornerback Terrance Newman, as a member of their starting defensive backfield, Xavier Rhodes is the star at that position for Minnesota. Trae Waynes is a star in the making, as he develops his game while being the reserve cornerback behind Newman this season. The Vikings defensive prowess this season goes beyond just their team speed however, as their safeties have the size and physicality to excel in run support. However, the defensive line and secondary are not the only units on the Vikings' defense where they have the size, speed and physicality to play at a star level.
Rookie Eric Kendricks is the star of this group, as he controls the middle of Vikings' defense as the signal caller. Anthony Barr adds to the athleticism on this unit, where he is able to use his speed to regularly register tackles for a loss of yardage. Pass coverage is another area where the Vikings' linebackers excel, especially in zone coverage where their short burst quickness allows them to wreak havoc on opposing passing games. With players that demand extra attention at every level of the Minnesota defense, unselfish play frees up defenders to fly and around and make plays with regularity. Their defense as a whole represents a truly dominant unit, as they have fewer than 200 points allowed through 11 games played this season. Only the Cincinnati Bengals have allowed fewer points than the Vikings this season. All the while, the Vikings have registered their dominant efforts without the benefit of having a turnover margin that is significantly in their favor. Which all adds up to narrative about how the Vikings defensive balance and fundamentals have allowed them to limit opposing team's yardage so effectively over the course of this season.
Will the Vikings take home a division title?
The Vikings have definitely developed a winning formula this season, with the early limitations shown by their inexperienced offense. Even though the Packers were able to force the Vikings out of their comfort zone, Green Bay is not playing good enough football to hold off the Vikings balanced approach to a difficult schedule. Losing a game at home to a division rival and the defending NFC North champs, may have felt like a huge loss to Vikings' fans. The reality of the situation is that the Vikings responded to the loss with a very consistent effort on the road the following week. Minnesota is showing the composure of a football team that is a true contender, and the Packers' midseason struggles have continued. By sticking to the approach of running the football and playing great defense, the Vikings have earned eight wins in eleven games. The Vikings will need to avoid straying from this approach, but if so they will take home the NFC North Division Title in 2015.