Take notice, NFL: the Vikings are for real

Is there another team in the NFL that is as overlooked as the Minnesota Vikings? At 6-2 the Vikings are tied for first place in the NFC North with the reeling Green Bay Packers despite a struggling offense. Minnesota is 4 games over .500 and yet they get lost in the talk about NFC contenders. With such a young team all around, Mike Zimmer is teaching this team how to win close games, and consistently execute on defense. 4 of the Vikings first 8 games of the season have been decided by under 7 points. Minnesota is 3-1 in those games.

On defense Mike Zimmer has this team playing on a very high level. The Vikings have 19 sacks and have one of the most underrated front sevens in the NFL. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph has played at an elite level against the run. Joseph was named NFC defensive player of the week and is a big reason this young defense continues to rise. Speaking of underrated players, safety Harrison Smith is rated as the second best safety behind Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins according to Pro Football Focus.

The Vikings have drafted incredibly well over the past 3 seasons. Zimmer and the front office have developed a young core on defense that has tremendous upside. Since 2012, the Vikings have gotten huge contributions from draft picks in Harrison Smith, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Erick Kendricks. Smith and Rhodes have asserted themselves in a top secondary in the NFL.

Minnesota isn’t just hitting on first round picks, linebacker out of UCLA Eric Kendricks who was picked in the second round already has 4 sacks on the season. His coverage skills and intelligence on defense shows what a steal Minnesota got in the brother of fellow NFL linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

The offensive side has struggled this year. Teddy Bridgewater has as many interceptions as touchdowns for the Vikings who are the 30th ranked passing offense. Bridgewater is still showing the upside and incredible pocket presence that he showed during his rookie season, the second year pro just needs to find the consistency that Minnesota needs in order to seriously compete for the North.

This isn’t a typical sophomore slump, Bridgewater is making some big time throws and leading his team back in close games. The loss against Denver at Mile High showed the toughness and leadership Bridgewater has shown since being drafted out of Louisville.  Minnesota lost by 3 but Bridgewater showed he can stand toe to toe with some of the best defenses in the NFL. Bridgewater finished with 269 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

Adrian Peterson is having a solid season. With Bridgewater using his legs a lot more this season, Minnesota is the 6th best rushing offense.

Despite the passing struggles, the offense is very balanced. Norv Turner has done a good job of choosing when to consistently run the football, and when to take shots with a complete gem in rookie wide receiver Stephon Diggs who has 460 yards and 2 touchdowns this season. Talk about a steal. Diggs was taken in the fifth round and has asserted himself as the top target for Bridgewater.

The second half of the season is going to be a huge test for Bridgewater and the Viking. The next five weeks have the Vikings going against the Raiders, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, and Cardinals. All of which are competing for a playoff spot.

Time will tell if this team can continue to open some eyes in the NFL. Zimmer has everyone buying in and his passion on the field is rubbing off on his teammates. To quote Zimmer after Bridgewater was hit on a cheap shot “If we were out on the street there would have been a fight.”

 

Written by Louie DiBiase

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