Tuesday, January 23, 2018

joe berger

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings ended a disappointing 2016 season by finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Just one year later, the team is eyeing their first Super Bowl appearance since 1976.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was named the 2017 NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Weekly. An 18-person panel selected the 55 year-old as the recipient of the honor.

“Slick Rick,” or “Trader Rick” as he’s commonly referred to, has built a reputation of accumulating draft picks, selecting impact players throughout all seven rounds and engineering multiple draft day trades. More recently, however, it’s Spielman’s ability to transform a roster that has him receiving recognition.

The 2017 offseason may have been some of Spielman’s best work as the Vikings general manager. Let’s take a closer look at how he used due diligence and refined offseason strategies to revamp the Vikings roster and put Minnesota back on the map.

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2017 Minnesota Vikings Pro Football Focus grades.

Before we get started I would like to make some things clear about PFF grades.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) has been grading NFL players since 2004. The football analytics site evaluates individual performances on a play-by-play basis. On every play of every game, a PFF analyst will grade each player on a scale of -2 to +2 according to what he did on the play.

From the Pro Football Focus website:

pff player grades

The grading method was designed to build a clearer picture of how players performed, rather than simply judging performances based on box-score stats. Stats can be misleading.

While most statistical analysis is quantitative in nature, PFF uses qualitative measures and opinion-based grading as the basis of their rankings, so like baseball umpires, their calls could be construed by critics as “biased.” However, the grading process is overseen by at least three individuals per contest, so while the numbers may not always be perfect, the process itself is rather reliable.

What’s also unique about PFF is that season-level grades also account for the duration of good and bad play, resulting in “compounded” grades (both positive and negative) if the player’s performance continues for long periods of time. Basically, the grades factor in “streaky” play. Kinda cool, right?

Anyways…I hope that helped. It’s better to know these things beforehand because some grades may surprise you.

So without further adieu, here are the 2017 season grades for each qualified Viking. The players are arranged by grade within their position group. Notable position rankings are listed in parentheses.

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The Minnesota Vikings finished the 2017 regular season 13-3 after a convincing win over the Chicago Bears.

The regular season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium was dominated by the NFC North champions. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the first half, the Vikings never looked back.

The Vikings rode the strength of their defense en route to securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

The Vikings defense shined all game. The league’s top defensive unit held the Bears to 30 yards rushing on 15 carries (2.0 YPC). Tarik Cohen was Chicago’s leading rusher with 13 yards.

Anthony Barr shut down the Bears rushing attack in the first quarter almost single-handedly. Later, Minnesota’s defensive line forced a safety as Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter pressured Chicago’s signal caller into a back-handed throw “attempt.”

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky went 20 for 36 (55.6%) for 178 yards. He had a QBR of 15.2 and a passer rating of 69.0.

Late in the fourth quarter trailing by 13, Chicago had eight snaps from inside the Minnesota 12, including six inside the 5, but could not reach the end zone.

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What a difference a week makes.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer isn’t always a happy man. That statement is especially true after his team suffers a loss. One can imagine reviewing game film the next day and reliving the mistakes his team made doesn’t exactly make Zimmer a jolly person. Needless to say, he wasn’t in a great mood at his weekly press conference Monday.

After a weekend loss to the Carolina Panthers in which multiple players left the stadium hobbled and in walking boots, Zimmer naturally fielded questions early and often regarding injury updates.

When he was first asked if he thought the team would be at full strength this upcoming Sunday, Zimmer didn’t have much of a response.

“I don’t know… today’s Monday,” he murmured softly. “I don’t know.”

A few questions later, Zimmer let out a sarcastic laugh as he grew increasingly annoyed by reporter questions.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings 24, Carolina Panthers 31

Game Recap

The Vikings came up short in their attempt to win nine games in a row Sunday. The last game of a three-game road trip resulted in Minnesota’s third loss of the season, and prevented the 10-3 Vikings from clinching the playoffs and capturing the NFC North division crown.

Offensively the Vikings failed to establish the rushing attack early. Jerick McKinnon led the team with 46 yards on seven carries (6.6 YPC) and Latavius Murray managed only 14 yards on nine carries (1.6 YPC). Quarterback Case Keenum added 40 yards on five rushes.

The Vikings had some success through the air but were doomed with turnovers at inopportune times. Keenum finished the day 27 of 44 (61%) passing for 280 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Vikings receiver Adam Thielen led Minnesota with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two key drops in the end zone before the half. Instead of taking the lead at halftime the Vikings settled for a Kai Forbath field goal.

Stefon Diggs had six catches for 64 yards but had a ball bounce off his hands late in the game which resulted in a Carolina interception.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph had three catches for 42 yards with a touchdown but he also had issues catching the ball. Two dropped passes in the first half would have resulted in big plays for the offense. The Vikings top three pass catchers all had crucial drops throughout the game.

The Vikings defense was hurt by big plays, specifically two long runs. Carolina’s first touchdown was a 60-yard blast by Jonathan Stewart to the right of the center on third-and-one. Later in the game Cam Newton sealed the win with a 62-yard scamper up the middle of the field.

Defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen each collected a sack but Zimmer’s top-2 defensive unit couldn’t bounce back after giving up the long runs. Carolina rode 216 rushing yards en route to their fifth victory in six games.