The following is the first of a four-part series breaking down why the other teams in the NFC North won’t be contenders this season. (The Packers get two parts.)
The Vikings made the playoffs last year because Adrian Peterson had an eight-game stretch that was as good as any he’s had in his career. If the now 31-year-old back can’t do that again, they won’t be taking the next step so many are predicting for them.
After a stink bomb in their opener, AP averaged 116.3 rushing yards per game, scored five touchdowns and his team went 7-1, averaging 24.4 points per game.
After that, he averaged 71.1 yards per game and the Vikings went 4-4, averaging 22 points per game (despite blowing out the Bears and the Giants).
So outside of Peterson’s historic eight-game stretch, they went 4-5 outside and averaged 19.9 points per game.
Maybe we should never bet against Peterson, but history has shown us we should definitely never bet against Father Time. Peterson is 31 and had 39 more rushing attempts than any other player in the league last year. Just like 2013, a drop off is likely. Betting on a 31-year-old running back, no matter how great he was, just seems unwise.
If Peterson can’t carry the team again, who can? There’s no evidence it’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Vikings tried being aggressive before the half. Inc, Inc, Int. All bad throws. https://t.co/VEg0SmUWBj
— Andrew Dannehy (@ChiBearsAD) July 23, 2016
Vikings fans and people who loved Bridgewater before he ever played an NFL game will tell you he’s a good quarterback. Some will tell you he’s one of the 10 best in the league, that it’s everyone else’s fault they couldn’t pass the ball. The eye test and the numbers say something different.
Bridgewater couldn’t push the ball down the field. According to ESPN’s statistics:
- Bridgewater completed just 11 of 33 passes that traveled more than 20 yards down the field with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
- Hell, on passes that traveled more than 10 yards down the field, he was well under 60 percent with six touchdowns and eight interceptions.
- On third down with nine or more yards to go, Bridgewater averaged 7.25 yards per attempt and had a passer rating of 72.4.
- The Vikings were tied for 19th in third down percentage, according to Football Outsiders they were 29th in passing on third-and-short.
- FO also has a metric in which they essentially rank how conservative each quarterback is, judging by their play on third down. Bridgewater, not surprisingly, ranked third-to-last with Blaine Gabbert and Alex Smith. Third down is considered a quarterback’s down and Bridgewater stunk.
Alex Smith is the name that stands out when comparing Bridgewater. They’re the same guy. The good news for the Vikings is they’ve built the kind of team that can win with a game manager. They have a terrific coach, solid defense and good specials. The bad news is, as Smith has shown throughout his career, winning with a QB who can’t make plays down the field will always be difficult. Everything else has to be clicking.
The Vikings have tried to improve the offense around Bridgewater. They seem to know that Peterson likely won’t be able to carry them again, so they invested in their offensive line and drafted a slow receiver. But, ultimately, it all boils down to Bridgewater and we still don’t have any evidence he can handle it.
With their defense and special teams, the Vikings will be tough to beat. But without improved quarterback play, they’re not contenders.