The following is part two of a three part wrap-up of the division from DBB contributor Andrew Dannehy.
The common theme with the Vikings is they’re an up-and-coming team but that could be more perception than reality.
The Vikings remind me a lot of the team they had almost a decade ago when they won the NFC North with a 10-6 record. Adrian Peterson was great and their defense was really good, but they didn’t have a quarterback and without a quarterback it’s hard to see them staying on top for long.
The 2008 team upgraded with Brett Favre, which was enough to win them the NFC North again and make them Super Bowl contenders, but I don’t see such an upgrade available to them this time around and they don’t seem to know they have a problem.
Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t make a lot of crippling mistakes. But he also can’t consistently make plays down the field. Will he improve? It’s certainly not a guarantee. Coming out of the draft, he was billed as a “finished product” and didn’t make a noticeable improvement from his rookie season to his second year. If he’s Alex Smith, that’s fine. But quarterbacks like Alex Smith don’t win championships. Moving indoors next year should help hide his arm limitations.
Bridgewater is not their only issue.
There has to be some concern about Adrian Peterson. He dropped off in the second half of the season and will be 31 next year. He averaged under four yards per carry in six of their last eight games after doing so just twice in their first nine. The burst just isn’t the same. When Peterson was struggling the Vikings were just a .500 team, going 4-4 with two of the wins coming against the Bears and Giants.
Minnesota’s receivers weren’t as bad as they were said to be, finishing in the top half of the league in yards after the catch and bottom half in drop percentage. Stefon Diggs made some big plays. Mike Wallace always seemed to be open deep (but Bridgewater couldn’t hit him). Kyle Rudolph is a good tight end.
Their defense is really good and it’s going to be really good for the foreseeable future. They have studs on every level and most of their key players are 28 or younger. Rick Spielman is great at finding defensive talent and Mike Zimmer is a terrific defensive mind.
Until Zimmer burns his players out (think Tom Thibodeau) the Vikings are going to be tough to beat. If they can replace Peterson or find a way to keep him fresh, they’ll contend for the NFC North title again. But until they get a quarterback, they won’t be serious contenders.