NFL Update: Vikings Dominating the NFC North

Hopes weren’t exactly high for the Minnesota Vikings going into the 2017-2018 NFL Season. The Vikings had lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before the 2016 NFL Season. Although quarterback Sam Bradford came into play well, the Vikings didn’t make the playoffs. Instead, Minnesota finished at 8 and 8.

There were signs in 2016 that the Vikings might be on the cusp of being one of the better teams in the NFC. Minnesota started out the season going 5 and 0. One of the wins was a brilliant 22 to 10 victory over then NFC defending champion Carolina on the road.

However, the Vikings ended up finishing 3 and 8 in their final 11 games. Expectations were that the Vikings, at best, were a 9 and 7 team this season. Not only is Minnesota not going to finish 9 and 7, the Vikings are a clear favorite to win Super Bowl 52.

Check out my update of the 2017 Minnesota Vikings!

Minnesota Vikings 2017 Update

The big question I had going into the 2017 NFL Season was whether or not QB Sam Bradford could lead the team. I also questioned how good Minnesota’s offensive line was. I update answers on both of those questions. I also predict what’s going to happen to the 2017 Minnesota Vikings.

QB Sam Bradford is the Man

Answer:  No, but it doesn’t matter…

I suppose the best thing to write is that Sam Bradford definitely could have been the man in Minnesota. Bradford started out the season as if he wanted to win the NFL MVP. He torched the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.

Sam completed 27 of 32 pass attempts. He threw for 346 yards. He tossed 3 TD passes. It appeared as if Minnesota was ready to win the Super Bowl that day, the day they dominated the Saints 29 to 19. During the game, though, Bradford had gotten hurt. Since that day, the Vikings have only tried to play Bradford once, in Week 5 versus the Chicago Bears. Bradford is now on I-R.

…Because Case Keenum is the Man

Although Bradford being on I-R is a good thing, it hasn’t mattered that much to the Minnesota Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater is healthy, but Bridgewater isn’t the quarterback that’s been leading the Vikings to victory after victory. The QB that’s been the man in Minnesota is Case Keenum.

Surprised? Don’t be. Keenum’s always had talent. He just needed the right system to show his talent. Keenum’s overall stats aren’t eye-popping:  15 TD passes, 5 picks, and 2,476 passing yards. Going into the Vikings’ Week 13 game versus the Atlanta Falcons, Keenum’s been absolutely en fuego, though.

Case’s TD to INT ratio in his last 3 games is 7 to 2. He’s played that well versus 3 teams, Washington, the L.A. Rams, and Detroit, that are challenging for a playoff berth. The Rams are at 7 and 4 on the season.

Versus Washington, Keenum completed over 72% of his passes. Against the Rams, Keenum completed 71% of his passes. Versus Detroit, he completed exactly 70% of his passes. Against Washington, the QB rating was 117. Versus the Rams, the QB rating was 100. He posted a 121.8 QB rating against the Detroit Lions.

If anybody iswondering why the Minnesota Vikings are currently at 9 and 2 and in charge in the NFC North, all they must do is look at their quarterback. Case Keenum has been fantastic.

Has the Vikings Offensive Line Improved?

Answer: Yep. Big Time.

The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line was a mess last season. It’s much, much better this season. How good is Minnesota’s offensive line?

The Vikings average 124.5 rushing yards per game. Minnesota averages those rushing yards even though starting RB Dalvin Cook is on I-R. Cook got hurt in Week 4. Before getting hurt, Cook had rushed for 354 yards from 74 attempts. His per rush average had been 4.8. That tells you right there that the Vikings’ offensive line has improved.

But, Cook wasn’t the only running back that’s had success rushing behind the Vikings’ offensive line. Both RB Jerrick McKinnon and offseason prized free agent Latavius Murray have been very good at rushing the football. McKinnon has rushed for 390 yards. He’s also caught 36 passes for 261 yards.

Latavius Murray has rushed for 496 yards. He’s also rushed for 5 TDs. Minnesota uses both running backs although right now their RB of choice is Murray. When Murray rushes well, Case Keenum can open things up in the passing game.

How Does Minnesota’s Receiving Corp Look?

Answer: Adam Thielen has become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

Stefon Diggs broke out in 2016 as one of the better wide receivers in the NFC. Diggs had a fantastic 2016. Adam Thielen has broken out as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

Thielen averages over 6 catches per game. We’re only in Week 13, and Adam already has 70 catches for 1,005 yards. He’s only caught 3 TDs, but Case Keenum often targets Thielen at least 10 to 12 times per game.

It’s only a matter of time before he starts adding touchdowns. If defenses switch it up to keep Thielen from going nuts, Stefon Diggs has the ability to take it to the house each and every time he makes a catch. That’s probably why defenses, so far at least, haven’t decided to stop Adam Thielen.

In any case, the Minnesota Vikings’ wide receiver corps is suddenly one of the best in the NFL. That’s what happens when two WR1s end up on your offense.

Minnesota’s Defense Rocks

Answer: The D is awesome

Minnesota’s defense has been ultra-solid this season. The D is much better versus the run than it is versus the pass. Minnesota’s defense allows 75.5 rushing yards per game. That’s about as low as it gets. The Vikings are so good versus the rush that they’re ranked second in the NFL.

Versus the pass, Minnesota allows about 215 total yards. That ranks 11th in the NFL. Only one team has scored 20 points or more versus the Minnesota Vikings this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers hung 26 on the Vikings in Week 2.

Bottom Line:  Minnesota Vikings are Super Bowl Contenders

Minnesota is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Vikings started out the season at 2 and 2. The win over New Orleans in Week 1 looked like an anomaly after the Vikings lost to Pittsburgh in Week 2. In Week 3, Minnesota beat Tampa Bay 34 to 17. But, then in Week 4, the Vikings got trounced at home 7 to 14 by the Detroit Lions.

What’s happened since then? Going into Atlanta this Sunday, Minnesota has won 7 straight games. They’ve gone 6 and 1 against the spread in those 7 straight wins. That means the wins have been legitimate. In the 4 wins before the Vikings’ bye, the defense kept the team together. Minnesota beat Chicago 20 to 17. The Vikings beat Green Bay 23 to 10. They then beat Baltimore 23 to 16 and then they beat Cleveland 33 to 16. 33 is a lot of points. It’s not that many points versus the Cleveland Browns.

Since the bye, the Minnesota Vikings  have played like the Super Bowl contenders that they are. The 38 to 30 win over Washington was exceptional. The 24 to 7 win over the Rams may have been the best performance by a football team this season. Minnesota beating Detroit 30 to 23 in Detroit shows exactly how far the team has come.

Where do the Vikings go from here? Could Minnesota really win the NFC and march into Super Bowl 52? I believe Minnesota could. The Vikings had a Top 5 defense going into the season. The biggest question was how the offense might perform. Case Keenum is as hot as any quarterback in the NFL.

If he continues on his path, the Vikings, along with the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints, should challenge for the NFC Championship. This just might be the Minnesota Vikings’ season.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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