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NFC North Preview: Minnesota Vikings

| September 2nd, 2015

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There are many around the league who are quietly optimistic about the Vikings this year. OK, so they’re not quiet at all. They’re actually quite annoyingly loud. It’s kind of weird considering that, in terms of DVOA, they were better than just Jacksonville, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Washington, New York Jets and, of course, the Bears. But they went 7-9 last year with a young roster and the expectation is that they will improve in their second year under Mike Zimmer.

Why They’ll Win The North:

There’s no question that Zimmer immediately changed the culture in Minnesota. Leslie Frazier seems like a nice guy, but there was no personality to him or any of his teams and he has a girls name. The players liked Frazier, but they accepted losing rather easily. Zimmer doesn’t put up with any bull shit. He’s a psychotic competitor and the Vikings seemed to take on that personality at times last season.

With rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for most of the season, Minnesota’s offense was 20th in scoring and 22nd in DVOA. That is expected to improve with the returns of Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph and addition of Mike Wallace. The development of receiver Charles Johnson is also something to watch for. If the parts develop around Bridgewater, he’s capable of being an efficient quarterback who makes enough plays for them to win.

Their defense finished 11th in scoring last year, a huge step up from 2013 when they were dead last in the league. In their last seven games, they only gave up more than 24 points once and held seven opponents under 20 points last season. Zimmer is known as one of the best defensive minds in the league and the expectation is that they’ll end up with one of the best defenses.

Why They Won’t:

While that defense was 11th in scoring, it was 23rd in DVOA as most of their good performances came against teams who were already having a hard time scoring. The fact that they’ll start 37-year-old Terance Newman at one of the corner spots is something both Detroit and Green Bay are licking their chops about.

Part of the reason Bridgewater dropped in the draft was because he lacked high upside. He was “pro-ready” as a rookie and is both intelligent and accurate, but he struggled to throw the ball down the field. He’s a younger version of Alex Smith, which is fine, but he’s not the franchise QB so many are anointing him as.

It’s worth questioning exactly how much Peterson will improve the Vikings run game. It isn’t as if they were bad last year, finishing 14th in rushing with the box stacked. Peterson averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2013, while the combination of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon averaged 4.0. McKinnon averaged 4.8 and Asiata ran mostly in short-yardage situations, bringing the average down. Peterson is 30 and hasn’t played in a year, we don’t know what he will be.

While Zimmer changed the culture, you have to wonder if he’s going to start wearing on players. I’m not worried about the defensive players, but I’m thinking Peterson, Wallace and most of the rest of the offensive players don’t like being yelled at. If Zimmer comes down hard on Peterson, is he going to go south on them and take other players with him?

Overview:

It’s easy to see why people like the Vikings, but they still have a lot to do. Their 7-9 record was a bit overblown last year, they had overtime wins against the Bucs and the Jets and beat Washington by three. They were better at the end of the year with competitive losses against Green Bay, Detroit and Miami and wins over Carolina, the Jets and the Bears, but there’s a big step between being a competitive team and being a good team.

The bust factor seems high with the Vikings. If Peterson has hit a wall and Bridgewater hasn’t improved, they might be the exact same team they were a year ago, a team that was fortunate to finish 7-9.

Zimmer appears to be building something good, but it’s hard to see them taking a big enough step to be competitive in the division. Everything would have to go right for them and wrong for both Detroit and Green Bay.

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  • beninnorcal

    Well everyone can call me a dummy if they want, but what’s DVOA?

    • MB30SD

      ben, check out this website on the innerness.

      It’s super cool! It’s: http://www.google.com

      You’ll love it! (hee hee)

      • beninnorcal

        I know, I know. I like the attentions, MB.

        • MB30SD

          hahahaha… I couldn’t help but give you shit on that one ben

    • AlbertInTucson

      Move over.

      • AlbertInTucson

        Defense-adjusted Value Over Average

        http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef

        And, yes, I had to look it up.

        • beninnorcal

          Thanks, Al, you’re giving Data a run for his money.

          • AlbertInTucson

            Except I searched it, found it and STILL don’t get it.

          • basically it’s a ranking of something (defense, offense, ST, run game, entire team, whatever the category is) that is adjusted to account for caliber of opponent and game situation.

    • CanadaBear

      More metrics that everyone has to learn. Or not! I think that stuff is probably valuable if you do a lot of betting, fantasy stuff, etc. If you watch every game of your favorite team you automatically know all this stuff about your team, just not the geek name for it.

      • AlbertInTucson

        Well, I’m STILL confused.

        • CanadaBear

          Yeah, me too. My point was when you watch your team every week you know when they were lucky to win, gave a game away they should have won, etc. It was like the miracle 13-3 season. We all knew the Beloved weren’t that good and had great luck all season.

    • NewBearInTown

      From football outsiders (linked below):
      THE ULTRA-SHORT VERSION:

      DVOA measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.

      THE SHORT VERSION:

      DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.

      • AlbertInTucson

        That makes my brain hurt.

      • Johnnywad

        They said there would be no math.

  • MB30SD

    Thanks Rev, maybe from now on you put up pics of US crushing THIER guys instead of the other way around. Just for, you know… moral

  • AlbertInTucson

    “DaBearsBlog @dabearsblog
    Oh, and this Bears secondary couldn’t use Charles Tillman?” (Correct).

    “Dumb move then.” (Wrong).

    “Dumb move now.” (Wronger).

    What part of “Peanut is a physical wreck and another injury waiting to happen” is/was not apparent?

    • BerwynBomber

      GP made a good point on the previous thread. The other issue with Peanut was that he had been playing C2 is whole career. Now at 33 we would be asking him to go bump and run/man-to-man. He might be able to transition fine but I would be more comfortable with a CB going from the latter to the former rather the reverse. That may have been one of the problems with Jennings this year.

      • Irish Sweetness

        We’ll be bumping receivers at the line and then staying close to them?
        I’ve heard tell of this arcane practice.

    • Irish Sweetness

      Having Jennings on one side and Peanut on the other would be like dipping two pieces of bread in gasoline and handing flamethrowers to Charles Johnson, Mike Wallace, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Calvin Johnson.

  • BerwynBomber

    “A younger version of Alex Smith” seems like a decent comp for Bridgewater. But Bridgewater looks like a better decision-maker than Smith was at a comparable age.

  • BearDown100393

    These divisional opponent reviews are kickass. Thanks Andrew.

    • MB30SD

      you mean jeff.

      • NewBearInTown

        You have been gone awhile. Jeff has a sidekick to write about football when he’s too bored.
        Its a good thing. Jeff’s not football dumb, but he hates writing about the details of the game and isn’t particularly good at it. He brought someone in that enjoys this stuff and does a more thorough job. Jeff can focus on his strength, writing from the perspective of the uneducated fan.

        • MB30SD

          I know NB, I was messing with BD. A few people last thread kept calling Andrew Jeff so I was just giving some of the lads the piss. ; )

          Thanks for coming to my rescue though, you are a true mensch.

          • Cormonster

            Do all midget women have the same size breasts? From my recollections of midgets in movies, they all seem to be about the same size, about a midget large B or small C bra. I haven’t had a chance to watch Little People or other midget-related reality shows and study the differences, so I thought I would ask you, since you are an expert on fun balloons.

          • MB30SD

            COOOOORM!!!!

          • MB30SD

            I have no idea, I’ve never been with a midget. Maybe I should add it to the bucket list, just to satisfy that curiosity… along with others.

          • Cormonster

            Nice to see you back. I’ll have to start posting more again when work slows down. It’s going to take a few games just to learn the players and numbers this year. It’s gonna be like watching the first few Badger games of the year and learning about the new players.

          • MB30SD

            a whoooooole neeeeew wooooooorld!

          • CanadaBear

            Inquiring minds want to know!! When I was pitching for a slow pitch softball team full of rugby players, one of their friends was a little person. We palled around together for a couple of years. I guess I should have asked him! The rugby players nicknamed him Too Tall after Ed “Too Tall” Jones.

  • Irish Sweetness

    Wow. Bridgewater is already way better than Alex Smith – who used to be the worst QB in the league by the way. He is most certainly a franchise QB, and will show that this year. They could win the division on 10-6.

    • NewBearInTown

      If I’m a Minny fan, I’m really excited to see what Bridgewater does this year. He had a solid rookie campaign and now has a whole off-season with the team to really develop into a professional QB.
      He hasn’t proven himself yet. He could regress (RG3), he could be overhyped, or he could turn into a solid signal caller for that team.
      One thing’s for sure, I do not want face a defense that has a healthy Adrian Peterson and a pro-bowl level QB.

      • The GP

        He put it together down the stretch last year

  • Irish Sweetness

    Welcome to Chicago. Interesting player.

    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000520175/article/texans-trade-te-khari-lee-to-bears

    POX have been watching Hard Knocks.

    • The GP

      So have I.

      And this guy was gone from the Texans. Pace got fleeced for a 6th unless he just didn’t want to fight with the kid’s agent when he walked and several people came knocking. Because who the fuck wants to play TE in Chicago.

      6th rounder was a payoff knowing the kid probably would choose elsewhere.

      • Irish Sweetness

        6’4 235 ? Sounds like a receiver to me.

        • Waffle

          Black Miller?

      • the way it works for guys like that is they get cut and go on waivers. Then the typical waiver order applies (for offseason, same as draft order, so Bears were 7th).
        He must have been very confident that somebody in the 6 slots before CHI would have grabbed him. Still don’t get why this wasn’t a 7th.

        • Bear Down in Tampa

          My guess is because it’s a 6th in the 2017 draft, not 2016, 2 years away, more uncertainty?

          • it’s a developmental guy. If he even becomes a #2 TE, that’s a solid trade.

  • The GP

    I kinda hate that Wall Street’s Carny Barkers like Money Morning advertise along the bottom of this and many other Disqus sites. The pump and dump slime that are the backwash of Capitalism.

    But it pays Jeff’s bills. Also why he talks up his readership. So be it. We can ignore the “10 Amazing reasons the Chinese are about to fuck us. ” clickbaits

  • The GP

    Also on Hard Knocks: Brian Cushing is a bad bad man.

    • Irish Sweetness

      He’s a cartoon arsehole of the highest order.

  • The GP

    Buffone’s book released yesterday

    http://tinyurl.com/qjyf5sj

  • Irish Sweetness

    http://www.windycitygridiron.com/2015/8/31/9232569/chicago-bears-devin-hester-taking-shots-at-jay-cutler

    So we all knew Jay and Devin weren’t on the same page … it’s just that Jay didn’t care.

    • Waffle

      Bullshit

      • Waffle

        Devin had his best numbers with Cutler. People revising because it got bad at the end when Devin was mailing it in

  • Trac

    A solid all around team can very easily win the division this year. Yes, I think the Queens can be that team this year.

    My favorite Dannehy quote: “He’s a psychotic competitor”.

  • Trac

    Wild and crazy guy?

    I’m feeling optimistic the Bears can finish the first 6 games at 4-2.

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