Sep. 26, 2016
Are the Vikings the team to beat in the NFC North?
The NFC North has been dominated by the Green Bay Packers in recent years, winning the division four out of the past five years. Although after starting the season 4-0, is it the Minnesota Vikings year to reign supreme in the North?
After the Vikings’ franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL it seemed as if the hopes for a successful season in Minneapolis was also torn in two. Even after the Vikings went and acquired Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles the chances of making a run seemed bleak. Then when running back Adrian Peterson also tore his ACL, it was almost as if the Vikings were cursed. Yet, here the Vikings are, four weeks into the season and haven’t lost a game.
Given the injuries to the offense and lack of offensive tools, it’s not surprising that the Vikings offense has not been very good. The Vikings rank 29th in total offensive yards at 1162. It has not been the offense, which many thought would carry this team this season, but the defense. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has put together one of the scariest defenses in football. They have allowed only 1224 yards and are allowing only 12.5 points per game. This defense shut down quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Eli Manning.
The Vikings defense is no fluke. Expecting some regression is reasonable, but the defense should continue to be top five in the NFL. The problem is their offense. Despite already having one of the worst offenses in football, there is plenty of room to get even worse. Bradford has been great for the Vikings and has a 105.5 passer rating on the season. If history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time until Bradford starts to fail or gets injured.
The other piece that has kept the offense where it’s at is wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs has been a thorn for many opposing defenses. He has 372 yards and a touchdown for the season. He’s the only threat that scares defenses on that team. Diggs is listed as doubtful for the Vikings game against the Houston Texans. If he misses time this season, it could be disastrous for the offense.
The Packers realistically the only team that will compete with the Vikings for the NFC North crown. Green Bay currently stands with a record of 2-1, while the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears both are 1-3.
Fortunately for the Vikings, the Packers have not looked very sharp. The Packers offense struggled in their first two games and their defense has been battling injuries. Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense had a bounce back game against the Detroit Lions. The Packers’ defense, when healthy, is an above average defensive unit. If Green Bay’s offense can return to anywhere close to what they were like two seasons ago then the Packers are going to a tough team to beat.
Right now, the Vikings are the team to beat in the NFC North. The Vikings already have two wins more than Green Bay, one of them coming against the Packers. In their current form, the Vikings are the better team. The problem is the high risk for an offensive breakdown for Minnesota. If Bradford starts playing like he has in his career or if Diggs cannot be relied upon, then there could be problems in Minnesota.