Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Matt Kalil

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(photo courtesy of Vikings.com)

The Vikings are entering Week 6 off a narrow loss to Denver, the bye week and a 2-2 record. While the Chiefs have only a single win under their belt and are missing star running back Jamaal Charles, they’re not a team for which Minnesota should let its guard down. Alex Smith is a proven quarterback, and the Chiefs finished the 2014 season with a respectable 9-7 record. And worth mentioning, Minnesota will be fighting against the bye week slump. The Vikings have played miserably in the post-bye game for the past five seasons, and this year they absolutely cannot afford a loss to Kansas City.

Former Vikings head coach Brad Childress will be making his return to Minneapolis, as he currently works for the Chiefs as their “spread game analysis/special projects coach”—how’s that for a mouthful? How will Childress’ current squad fare against his former? Let’s take a look at the offensive match up.


Offensive Line

The Broncos’ top-rated defense worked over T.J. Clemmings in Week 4, and it will be interesting to see how the rookie rebounds this week. Granted, the Chiefs’ defense ranks only No. 26 in the league, but they do have powerful linebacker Justin Houston in their arsenal. Houston finished the 2014 season with 59 tackles, and he already has 18 in the books this year. He has an uncanny ability to get to the quarterback and will most likely be the offensive line’s biggest focus on Sunday.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

As Vikings fans watched the Packers toss the Rams to the side, the Bears rally from behind to beat the Chiefs at home, and the Lions implode against the Cardinals last week, we were reminded of how lonely a Sunday without professional football in Minnesota can be. The Vikings, who sit at 2-2 entering Week 6, are three games behind the Packers in the NFC North and currently find themselves as the sixth seed in the NFC playoff race — if, of course, the season ended today.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t, but the Vikings begin a four-week stretch of winnable games on Sunday, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs at home. Following this week’s matchup, the Vikings hit the road to play the Lions and Bears before returning to TCF Bank Stadium to host the St. Louis Rams in Week 9. Combined, the teams are 5-15, and two of those games involve division opponents, giving the Vikings a prime opportunity to separate themselves in the NFC North.

Maybe projecting a 4-0 record in those games is a bold prediction, but I’m in the mood to make bold predictions. I’ve missed watching the Vikings on Sundays, and I’m ready for Mike Zimmer’s team to redeem themselves after a close loss to the Broncos two weeks ago.  My predictions after the jump may be improbable, but the statistics tell a different story — will any become a reality against the Chiefs?

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

At this point last year, the Minnesota Vikings were 2-2, having just beat the Atlanta Falcons behind an eye-opening performance from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. In his first NFL start, Bridgewater completed 19 passes for 317 yards and even scored a touchdown with his legs. The elation in Minnesota would quickly end, though, as the franchise’s newfound quarterback missed the next game and watched as his team fell to the Green Bay Packers.

Suffering from the humiliation at Lambeau Field, the Vikings continued their losing streak against the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills to fall to 2-5. Bridgewater struggled, the running game sputtered without Adrian Peterson, and the defense was a sieve at best against the run. Their 2-2 start, kicked off by a drubbing of the St. Louis Rams, wasn’t enough to keep pace with the NFC’s playoff contenders.

This year, the Vikings find themselves in a familiar, yet much different position. Though they enter the Week 5 bye at 2-2, this is a team that’s deeper, more talented, and playing at a higher level than their 2014 counterparts through four games. The record doesn’t necessarily reflect this, and an ugly Week 1 loss to the 49ers swayed expectations early, but three strong performances against the Lions, Chargers, and Broncos put the Vikings in excellent position to compete for an NFC playoff spot this season.

The Vikings won’t return to the field until Week 6, when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at TCF Bank Stadium in a crucial inter-conference matchup. Until then, head coach Mike Zimmer will have much to assess in his time off, including a few ugly trends in his team’s two losses. After the jump, we’ll dive into the game film from the Vikings’ Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos and try to figure out what went wrong. As the famous saying goes, “The eye in the sky never lies…”

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(photo courtesy of Vikings.com)

All right, Vikings fans, we’ve made it to Bye Week. With four weeks down and a .500 record, there have been some ups and downs to the season thus far. Looking back over the games under our belt, which Vikings player has impressed you the most? Check out our answers, and as always, leave us a comment to let us know your opinion!

Carl: Adrian Peterson, RB
Mike Zimmer has put his stamp on the 2015 Minnesota Vikings football team, and the result is a roster full of players buying into a team-first approach. Yes, this question is a bit harder to answer because so far this season both the offense and defense appear to be playing good “team” ball. But individually, Adrian Peterson has impressed me the most after four games. His 372 yards leads the NFL in rushing and his 5.0 yards per carry average has been a shot in the arm for the offense. After seeing the run game struggle in the preseason, it has been a joy to see some explosiveness back in the backfield.

Brent: Anthony Barr, LB*
There isn’t any doubt that expectations of Barr were sky high going into his second year, but nagging injuries that lingered into the preseason created some cause for concern. Barr has been outstanding thus far and outside of Harrison Smith is having the best season of any Vikings defender. What has been most impressive is Barr’s improvement in coverage through four weeks. Picking off Peyton Manning will be on Barr’s highlight reel for a long time and for good reason. Imagine if he were to have come away with the second INT.

*(other considerations: Joe Berger, Linval Joseph & Eric Kendricks)

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In Minnesota, the usual suspects continue to carry the Viking ship. Adrian Peterson’s 372 rushing yards lead the league, Mike Zimmer’s defense is holding teams to less than 20 points per game, and Anthony Barr is making spectacular plays on a weekly basis, both against the run and in coverage.

On Thursday, the Vikings Territory staff will answer Lindsey’s Question of the Week and share our pick for the team’s most impressive player through the first four games of the season. A few obvious choices — Peterson, Barr, Harrison Smith — stand out, while a number of newcomers like Linval Joseph and Terence Newman could potentially make the list.

Today, I want to ask fans a similar question. As spectators, we expect greatness from the Vikings’ best players. It’s a given that Peterson can score whenever he touches the ball, or, that Xavier Rhodes will likely shut down an opponent’s number one receiver. But which players have exceeded expectations at the quarter mark of the season, and who is surprising you with their play?

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