Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings are 6-2 and sitting atop the NFC North. Riding a four-game winning streak, the team holds a two-game lead over Detroit and Green Bay in the division. The Vikings are well-positioned heading into the second half of the season.

All is well, right? Not so fast. This is the Vikings we’re talking about.

The final eight games include matchups against multiple teams fighting for the playoffs. With the Vikings facing perhaps their most difficult portion of the schedule, here are the second half storylines the Vikings Territory team is interested in watching — beginning Sunday.

Can Everson Griffen and the Vikings Defense Keep up this Destructive Pace?

The Vikings defense has been incredible through eight games this season. Defensive end Everson Griffen has set the tone for Minnesota along its defensive line, linebacker Anthony Barr has stepped up in a big way relative to his 2016 struggles and both cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith have unleashed their inner All-Pro form. But can Griffen and Co. continue to play at this high of a level moving forward?

We saw the Vikings defense regress to the mean last season, but was that more a result of injury and having to compensate for offensive inadequacy? Or are the Vikings simply not capable of sustaining elite defensive play for an entire 16-game season? Only time will tell – but watching this story develop through the winter should be riveting television for fans of the purple and gold.

BJ Reidell

NFC North Race

I think an underrated storyline in the second half of the season is the race for the NFC North title. Detroit, while two games back of the Vikings, boasts one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL and will likely be favored in every remaining game. Meanwhile, the Vikings face a tough five-game stretch that includes four on the road.

Additionally, the Lions do have the tiebreaker over Minnesota for now. The Thanksgiving matchup at Ford Field looms large. It’s not absurd to think the winner of that game will eventually go on to win the NFC North title.

Drew Mahowald

Quarterback Situation

At the risk of taking the easy route, I have to be honest: the second half storyline I’m most looking forward to following is the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Every opinion has already been made, and every angle has been dissected, so I’m just interested in watching it play out.

With Teddy Bridgewater, the number one point, with a bullet, is the health of his knee. Will he be able to move like he did before the injury? Does it still need more time? Will it affect his confidence? And with Case Keenum, can he keep it up? Can he continue to lead the team to wins, even through uneven performances? Who will Zimmer stick with the rest of the year, and why?
And oh, by the way, there’s still the possibility of Sam Bradford (you know, the guy who began 2017 as the starter) being reactivated at some point after the season; no one seems to have any idea.
No matter what happens, it’s going to be fun to watch. Buckle up for what should be a wild second half. 

Sam Neumann

Health
The 2017 Vikings are talented enough to play football after the regular season concludes. We know this. The question now becomes whether or not they can stay healthy enough to contend deep into the playoffs.
That’s right, I believe those boring daily injury report articles are now the most important thing leading up to the playoff race.
Will Teddy be back and ready to roll? Will Bradford? Are the nagging injuries along the offensive line enough to submarine aspects of Pat Shurmur’s offense? Can Stefon Diggs make up lost ground in the receiving stats categories? Is this team truly deep enough to account for the next big injury that will almost certainly occur before Week 17 is done?
These are the most important questions, and health is the most important storyline, as we all wait to see if the Vikings can possibly play the mother of all home games in February. 

Adam Warwas

Stacking Up to the Competition
Following a 5-0 start last season, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Philadelphia for the first real test of the year. The Eagles rolled past the Vikings and opened the floodgates to what became a disappointing end to the season — three wins and eight losses to close out 2016.
In a similar situation this year, the Vikings come off their bye to face the Washington Redskins, a team with enough talent and preparedness to make a game of Sunday’s contest. The Redskins beat the Seattle Seahawks in a thrilling Week 9 matchup, showing they’re dangerous enough to upend some of the league’s best defenses.
On the road, with confidence at a season-high, the Vikings have a chance to prove their hot start wasn’t just an anomaly, but the start of a season-ending trend. 

Austin Belisle

Hello Adversity My Old Friend

In a private conversation with the VT team regarding the depth of this year’s Vikings, I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

This team is deep BECAUSE of injury. It can handle adversity better than most because of that fact.

The Vikings have lost their starting quarterback and starting running back for the season. You wouldn’t be able to tell looking at their record. But, like I mentioned in the intro, this is the Vikings.

There’s little doubt that adversity will find its way back to the team’s doorstep. In what way, shape or form, no one knows.

Obviously I hope I’m wrong and that’s not the case — but this year, unlike years past, I’m not so worried. Something’s different. There’s something special about this team. Maybe like I said, it’s the depth. Maybe it’s the family-like bond the team has seemed to form on and off the field.

Regardless of what it is, I’m looking forward to seeing how the season unfolds. With damn near everything surrounding the team trending upward, I don’t see a limit to how far this team can go. It’s built for the long haul.

Sean Borman

2 COMMENTS

  1. A little too much negativity peppered throughout this article, but overall it speaks the truth of what we are all thinking. I just hate talking about it. Regardless of what happens, I will be a fanatical Vikings fan until the day I die. I just hope we can get it done just once before that day. But what a ride its been. There have been some really tough days for us Vikings fans, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Thats what it means to be a fan. Without the lows, there would be no payoff highs. SKOL

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    • Really well-said Robert! We’re right there with you. The “negativity” is probably just the “cautiously optimistic” side of us talking. SKOL!

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