With the Vikings a quarter of the way through the 2015 season and not having any recent game to discuss due to the bye week, I thought this would be a perfect time to have a round table discussion here at Vikings Territory. I reached out to our awesome staff and a couple of other quality Vikings minds and sent them a list of questions to weigh in on. The questions cover a bevy of Vikings talkers and the group knocked it out of the park with some really thoughtful answers. Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com Entertainment Network Content Manager, and Adam Patrick, Vikings Featured Analysis for Pro Football Spot, were nice enough to join us and donate some of their valuable time to participate.
You’ll find all of the questions after the break. Click the toggle buttons to expand the answers for each question. We’d love for you all to join in on the conversation. In the comments, try and respond to at least one of these questions on your own. (But by all means, feel free to tackle them all!)
[cq_vc_accordion accordionstyle=”style1″ contentcolor=”#333333″ accordiontitle=”Teddy/Adrian Formation Conflict?,How does Teddy become elite?,Who’s responsible for the strong safety problem?,Can T.J. Clemmings replace Phil Loadholt,How can the Vikings dethrone the Packers?,Vikings biggest draft need?,Vikings record after remaining schedule? Biggest upset?” titlebg=”#dddddd” titlehovercolor=”#ffffff” titlehoverbg=”#582d83″ extraborder=”no” displayfirst=””] [accordionitem]
Teddy Bridgewater is noticeably more comfortable throwing from the shotgun. Adrian Peterson is noticeably more effective running as a single back or in an ‘I-formation’. Can Norv Turner design formations that play to both player’s strengths and avoid being too predictable to opposing defenses? If so, how? If not, could this be an issue moving forward that hampers the Vikings offense?
MIKE WOBSCHALL: Regardless of who’s comfortable in what formation (and I don’t pretend to know those answers), I’m sure coach Turner’s desire is for the Vikings to be able to execute both out of the gun and under center. I don’t get worked up over whether someone’s play calling is predictable, and being able to guess whether a run or a pass is coming next doesn’t mean you’re predicting the play calls. That’s a 50-50 proposition and anyone can get those right, especially when down and distance is factored in. Try predicting run direction, or belly vs. toss, or lead vs. counter. That’s what the defense is worrying about – not run vs. pass. The best teams are those who can do what they want to do even when the opposition knows it’s coming. In order to do that, the offense needs to be able to execute out of all formations.
ADAM WARWAS: The comfort levels and effectiveness you mention above are 100% noticable and hard to refute. With that being said, I think the issues along the offensive line are manifesting themselves by magnifying the deficient performances from Peterson out of the gun and Bridgewater under center. Peterson didn’t play in the preseason. Loadholt and Sullivan are missing action. This has a ripple effect that shows up when Peterson is asked to take on a blitzing pass rusher, or when Teddy is asked to stay steady in a longer developing pass play, and I’m not sure either will improve in these scenarios unless the blocking improves along the line. Some adjustments can be made during the bye week to minimize exposure to these situations, but those adjustments cannot include taking the ball out of Peterson’s hands, or becoming predictable in the passing game.
BRENT LABATHE: I do think this is something the Vikings will need to find a balance for coming out of the BYE week. I think it’s becoming rather obvious when the Vikings intend to pass vs. run and you can call it out prior to the play. It doesn’t help that Peterson hasn’t been good in pass protection. I did see the Vikings run a fair share of pistol formations during training camp and I wonder if they have been waiting to roll that out or simply don’t think they’re very effective at it. I think that could serve as a creative way to help both Peterson and Bridgewater, while providing Bridgewater a bit of flexibility with adjustments at the line.
ADAM PATRICK: Today’s NFL offenses seem to geared more towards calling more plays out of the shotgun formation. Part of the reason being that the quarterback has a better view of what the defense is doing before he snaps the ball. Maybe the Vikings should try out some plays in the pistol formation? This way Peterson can still line up behind the entire team and Teddy has a better view at what the opposing defense is planning to do.
CARL KNOWLES: I don’t think it’s an issue. As Bridgewater and Peterson get more comfortable with Norv’s system and develop more chemistry together through additional playing time, those stats and tendencies of effectiveness will begin to balance out as both players develop a more well rounded talent level with one another. They say an old dog can’t learn a new trick, but I have faith that we have not seen the final wrinkle with his two stars.
AUSTIN BELISLE: Norv Turner and the Vikings face a difficult dilemma — focus on the future, Teddy Bridgewater, or embrace the “now,” Adrian Peterson. While true that Bridgewater is a less effective quarterback under center, he’s been serviceable, taking a backseat to the greatness of Peterson. When Peterson’s rushed more than 20 times per game, the Vikings have won, and that’s the formula to follow moving forward. As long as Peterson’s healthy, willing, and able to carry the load, he should be the focal point of the offense, especially in the I-formation.
BRIAN HALL: I just believe it will come with time as Bridgewater and Peterson keep working together. They only have four games together, so they are still new in adjusting to each other and Turner adjusting to having both of them. I’m not sure if there is anything Turner can do from a design-formation aspect because they are both simply better in different formations. But they both need to learn how to succeed out of the opposite formation so that the Vikings can utilize both options and not give away the run/pass play call. To me, right now, it comes down to Bridgewater needing to perform better under center. We’ve seen the offense is still at its best when Peterson is leading the way. Peterson is the best offensive player on the team and they must do what they can to make him his most productive. I believe both players will perform better down the stretch, though, as they continue to adjust to each other.[/accordionitem] [accordionitem]
Through 16 games, Teddy Bridgewater has performed like a solid starter, playing well enough to keep the Vikings competitive. What will it take for him to take the next step in his development, and can he become an elite quarterback?
MIKE WOBSCHALL: It is important for the Vikings to play well around Bridgewater. Blockers must protect him. Receivers must run good routes, get open and catch the ball. One of my favorite stats through Bridgewater’s first 16 games is that in the 10 games he’s been sacked three times or less, he has an 11-5 TD-INT ratio with a 90.3 rating and the Vikings are 8-2. Conversely, in the six games he’s been sacked four-plus times, he has a 5-9 ratio with a 77.6 rating and the Vikings are 0-6. This is not to absolve Bridgewater from any blame when things aren’t going well. We all know part of the QB’s job is to elevate the play of those around him. But at the end of the day, the Vikings must protect Bridgewater. When they do, very good things have, and will continue to, happen.
ADAM WARWAS: Bridgewater has been notably anxious behind that offensive line this season, and I can’t blame him. With that being said, I still think he is a very solid quarterback that has a great chance to be the best this franchise has had since Fran the Man. Some better protection, getting the running game going… I think this passing game can only trend upwards with Teddy calling the shots. I’m not worried about him.
BRENT LABATHE: I hinted at this after breaking down Bridgewater’s concerning start against San Diego, but Teddy simply needs to be more consistent in his mechanics and general fundamentals in order to improve as a quarterback. There are occasions when he will flat out miss throws due to poor throwing motions and in order to be a top NFL quarterback, you must make those throws. I think this is something to be encouraged by, however, because it means Bridgewater has already shown he can command an offense, recognize defenses and blitzes and plays at a NFL pace.
LINDSEY YOUNG: The thing that’s been tough about the first four games of the season is that we really haven’t seen much deep ball from Bridgewater at all. There was a lot of hype surrounding Mike Wallace coming to Minnesota because of the deep threat he would be, but we have yet to see him heavily utilized in the way I expected. It’s hard to blame Bridgewater’s slow start completely on the offensive line, because there are QBs who play extremely well even under lots of pressure (Exhibit A: 2014 Andrew Luck). That being said, however, it’s hard to know exactly what Bridgewater’s norm is until he gets better protection. I love that he stays [mostly] calm on his feet, and he doesn’t seem easily rattled. Soon, though, he needs to step out from the mid-range pitches and really target receivers downfield. I’m not even sure if it’s a confidence issue or a play-calling issue or maybe a combination of both, but until he starts taking those chances, I don’t think he’ll develop much beyond where he is.
ADAM PATRICK: Better pass blocking would be a huge help in Teddy’s progression. Fellow quarterback and 2014 draftee Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders has played significantly better this season than in 2014 behind an improved offensive line (higher completion percentage, touchdown percentage, and passing yards per game). More time to go through his receivers seems like an obvious answer but it is one that could help Bridgewater the most right now.
CARL KNOWLES: Elite quarterbacks are judged by championships. If Teddy can lead us to a championship, he will be in the elite discussion.
AUSTIN BELISLE: Teddy Bridgewater has thrown for more yards than Tom Brady did in his first 16 starts, and that’s behind what’s been one of the league’s worst pass-protecting offensive lines over the past two years. Once John Sullivan returns and the line finds their groove, I’d expect the anxiousness we’ve seen in Bridgewater to subside. He showed trademark poise against the Broncos, posting the best performance by a quarterback against Denver’s top-ranked defense this season. Can he be elite? He showed flashes last week.
BRIAN HALL: I’m not sure we’ll ever see Bridgewater as the Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady take-over-a-game type or even leading a deep ball offense. That’s not a bad thing. But Bridgewater can be one of the better signal callers in the NFL by utilizing his strengths; his accuracy, his ability to read the defenses and make the smart play, and his feet. I think the Vikings simply need to keep going on the steady approach they’ve taken with Bridgewater. If there is one aspect I think he can grow the most, it’s a little more aggressiveness in attacking a defense. That could be with his legs or his arm. We’ve seen him lead offenses down the field in two-minute situations when he’s letting it loose. While being cautious with the ball is a good trait of Bridgewater’s in not turning the ball over, I feel there are times he doesn’t let it go, too. And perhaps there’s still some skittishness behind the offensive line, which has been good at times, but is still clearly in a transition itself. Once he masters the balance between the safe play and hitting some big passes, he should evolve into one of the better quarterbacks in the league.[/accordionitem] [accordionitem]
With the turnover at strong safety, from Andrew Sendejo to Robert Blanton, who do you blame for the team’s struggles at the position? Why hasn’t Antone Exum been able to find playing time, and is the 2016 draft the answer moving forward?
MIKE WOBSCHALL: I don’t know where to point the finger nor do I feel assigning blame does any good. The long-term answer to this question may be on the roster. It’s time for someone to step up and win this job. Until someone does that, though, the Vikings defensive coaching staff will have to pick and choose when they play certain players – namely Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendejo. My sense on Exum is that he has the physical tools the team wants in a safety to play with Harrison Smith but he’s still learning how to play in the League and how to play in this defense. Moving forward, it’s too early to tell how the long-term solution will be found. The most economical way is through the draft, but sometimes the faster way is through free agency.
ADAM WARWAS: I thought strong safety was one of our top needs last offseason, and now I think it will be the biggest need heading into 2016. I honestly believe that we beat Denver if someone more skilled than Robert Blanton is playing the spot, and I’m not convinced Sendejo is that guy, while Exum just never seems to have the faith of this coaching staff. Spending lots of money at the position seems unlikely, with Smith on deck for a massive contract, so we’ll have to keep close tabs on the blue chip safeties entering the 2016 Draft and potential trade options.
LINDSEY YOUNG: Ahh, the strong safety position is one of the most aggravating situations on the team right now. I have never been a Robert Blanton fan, to be honest. His coverage is okay, but I see him try to tackle guys too high on a consistent basis, and he just doesn’t do the job of a starting safety. Then they switched Sendejo to the starting slot, and he seemed to do a little better job (don’t get me started on him taking out Rhodes in Week 3), but he’s not the answer. I really liked the glimpses I got of Exum Jr. at the end of last season, and I thought he look good during training camp and preseason. I think there’s a personality clash/attitude issue with Exum for Mike Zimmer. Zimmer alluded to that last season, and Exum seemed to have matured prior to this season, but clearly there’s still something going on that Zimmer feels he’s not a good option to start. I’m hoping that he works things out in practice and starts demonstrating that he can fit into Zimmer’s defense; if that doesn’t happen, the Vikings should target a strong safety in the Draft.
ADAM PATRICK: The blame has to be put on the lack of quality safeties available in the Draft the past few seasons. The Vikings have had more glaring needs than safety at the time of their past first round draft selections. By the time they were able to even think about drafting a safety, there were not any left worth selecting with any of their early round picks. This upcoming Draft might be the one where Minnesota addresses their need for a safety in the first round.
CARL KNOWLES: I’m not sure if I can blame anyone for a lack of talent at the strong safety position. I have watched enough film on both of these guys to know they are usually in good position. They are being coached the same, and playing in the same system as Harrison Smith, yet the production and playmaking is just not on the same level. Vikings fans are hopeful Exum’s production and playmaking ability will at some point rise to the top of the depth chart, but to get there he must first earn the coaches trust and prove he knows the system and he can be in the right position to make plays. There is no question the Vikings will look to the 2016 NFL draft for answers.
AUSTIN BELISLE: It’s hard to point the finger at one specific player or coach, but I’d start with Rick Spielman and the front office. The Vikings showed interest in a few top safeties in free agency, but chose to stick with their current depth at the position. Neither Blanton, Sendejo, or Exum Jr. has “earned” the job thus far, and the 2016 NFL Draft will be loaded with talent at strong safety. Expect to see a new name next to Harrison Smith next season, or even, the homegrown product, Brock Vereen.
BRIAN HALL: When it comes to placing blame, that’s tough. General manager Rick Spielman has drafted Blanton and Exum, so they’ve used resources. They’ve signed Chris Crocker in what now appears as desperation. They had signed lower-tier free agents like Kurt Coleman. And spending big money at safety is not a wise investment, if you ask me. There are far more important spots on the roster and they’ve focused on those positions in the draft and free agency, which makes sense. And they already have one game-changer back there in Harrison Smith. I trust they are getting good coaching from Zimmer and Jerry Gray. I believe when it comes to Blanton, it’s simply he isn’t the player they hoped. He made the transition from cornerback and it’s never fully taken. Zimmer wants someone with coverage skills next to Smith, which Blanton should have, but he hasn’t performed on a consistent basis. Exum seemingly has the skills — and also the cornerback ability in college, like Blanton — but is still making his own transition. I thought Exum would have made his way into the lineup by now, but the coaching staff doesn’t feel he’s consistent enough, either. Sendejo, I believe, is not a starting safety. He’s a standout special teams player, and there’s value in that, but I don’t believe he’s cut out to be a starting safety. If Exum can’t develop, Minnesota will be looking again in 2016.[/accordionitem] [accordionitem]
T.J. Clemmings had his struggles against Von Miller last Sunday, but that was expected from the rookie right tackle. Are you confident he can be Phil Loadholt’s replacement? Why or why not? Considering Loadholt’s contract situation, what do you think the likelihood is that he plays another snap with the Vikings?
MIKE WOBSCHALL: I’m very optimistic about what Clemmings has done so far. He was thrown into the mix far earlier than expected and he’s stepped up to the challenge. While he hasn’t been perfect, that he’s performed as well as he has even after being thrust into action earlier than was planned tells me he has potential and likely has the wherewithal to make it at this level. I feel he’s a better pass blocker than run blocker at this point, and I’d honestly rather have it that way than the other way around. He’s a good enough athlete to block explosive pass rushers, and I’d rather have him have to learn the intricacies of run blocking than have to try to become more athletic so he can deal with explosive edge rushers. Only time will tell what the future holds for Loadholt, but I’m not ruling him out of anything. The guy has the heart of a champion, he embodies the unselfish warrior mentality coach Zimmer referenced last week, and we all know the Vikings are still searching for depth up and down the line.
ADAM WARWAS: I don’t think Loadholt is a Viking beyond 2015. I believe Clemmings has plenty of development potential, but also think he needs to improve the rest of this season if he wants to enter next year without serious competition. This Vikings schedule is tough in a lot of ways, and one of those ways are the matchups the rookie has on his plate, but I’m hopeful he’ll be the answer moving forwards.
BRENT LABATHE: I think Clemmings will be a decent tackle in the long term, with the potential to be pretty good. That said, I don’t think the Vikings should hand the starting role to him if Loadholt can return. Unfortunately, Loadholt’s contract isn’t my concern, it’s his ability to overcome the latest injury at 30 years old. If Loadholt can return at the same level of play, I think the Vikings would be very happy to have him back.
LINDSEY YOUNG: Yeah, Clemmings had issues against the Broncos last week, but he’s not the only lineman the No. 1 defense got to. I think the biggest challenge for Clemmings is the mental aspect, getting overwhelmed–which is what we saw against Denver. I actually still feel pretty positive about him, though. For being a fourth-round pick, he’s impressed, and I think he’ll only improve. Accuse me of being overly optimistic, but I think Clemmings can hold his own as Loadholt’s replacement.
ADAM PATRICK: Loadholt likely played his last snap in Vikings uniform during the Vikings second 2015 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Clemmings looks like a rookie but he also looks like he has gotten better as each game goes by even if his improvement is by a small margin. With Loadholt’s health becoming inconsistent and Clemmings low price, look for the rookie to keep his spot in the starting lineup heading into 2016.
CARL KNOWLES: Everyone struggles against Von Miller. T.J. Clemmings is on par comparatively speaking with the rookie season Loadholt had. I’m not sure what the future holds for Loadholt, but Clemmings certainly has the tools to develop into an adequate starting right tackle.
AUSTIN BELISLE: When Phil Loadholt went down with a torn achilles this preseason, I panicked. Yes, Clemmings was a first-round talent who fell to the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but he was supposed to develop for a year or two behind Loadholt. Thrust into the spotlight, his rookie rust has been on full display, but he’s also flashed the raw skills that made him such an attractive draft pick. If and when Loadholt returns, the Vikings may realize that Clemmings is the long-term answer at right tackle.
BRIAN HALL: Who doesn’t have their struggles against Von Miller? That was a very tough matchup for the rookie. I think he deserves a pass for last week’s game. I feel he can be an adequate replacement for Loadholt this season. We’ve seen some decent play out of Clemmings at times, and he should get better as he plays more this season. He has the tools to become a quality starting tackle in the NFL and I think he will develop. The Loadholt situation is a tough one. I believe the Vikings like Loadholt and would have preferred him to stick around for a few seasons, but with the injury he has and the money he’s owed, it could make it tough for a return. At this point, I’d be inclined to say we might have seen Loadholt’s last snap with the Vikings. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised with a return. Two key questions remain for Loadholt: If he can return to full health and the level of Clemmings’ play.[/accordionitem] [accordionitem]
What will it take for the Vikings to dethrone the Packers in the NFC North? The Packers are the favorites to win the division, but the Vikings are the team most prepared to challenge the reigning champions. What makes this possible in 2015 and beyond?
MIKE WOBSCHALL: Road wins. The Vikings must start winning games on the road, including at Lambeau Field, if they want to regain division supremacy. Coach Zimmer talks a lot about wanting a tough team. How does one measure toughness in a team? There are a lot of ways – yards after contact, QB sacks, QB sacks allowed, etc. I’d say road wins are a metric of toughness, too.
ADAM WARWAS: Short of an Aaron Rodgers injury, I’m not sure this is a realistic scenario for this year, but the starting point would have to be beating the Packers twice and probably sweeping the rest of the division. The next ingredient would be finding ways to win on the road. Honestly, though, I’m not sure we can beat out the Packers unless we win each of our next twelve.
BRENT LABATHE: At this point of the season, the Vikings would have to beat Green Bay twice if they wanted to win the North. I don’t see the Packers imploding mid-season, so if the Vikings were to stand a chance, they’d have to take it upon themselves. In the long term, the Vikings will likely be much better defensively than the Packers and if they can find a way to stop Aaron Rodgers and consistently score, they can attempt to dethrone the Packers.
LINDSEY YOUNG: This question is a tough one; for 2015, I just think the Packers are too good. As much as I hate to say it about our biggest rival team, Aaron Rodgers is just too smart and too talented of a quarterback; Jordy Nelson isn’t even a factor this year, and it hasn’t seemed to rock Green Bay at all. If the Vikings defense can stay on the track it is and if the defensive line can put pressure on Rodgers in both games, Minnesota can come away with at least one win over the Packers. But overall in comparing schedules and long-term team outlooks, the Vikings offense needs to develop significantly to dethrone Green Bay in the NFC North.
ADAM PATRICK: To be a contender for the NFC North title year in and year out, the Vikings offense needs to become more balanced. Yes they have Adrian Peterson and he is capable of a 50 yard run every time he carries the ball, but teams need to view Minnesota’s passing game as more of a threat than it currently is. With an improved passing game, opposing defenses will struggle with what aspect of the Vikings offense they will choose to stop. Not many worries on the defensive side of the ball for Minnesota. It seems like Mike Zimmer is taking care of that just fine.
CARL KNOWLES: I don’t think the Vikings can dethrone the Packers this season. The Packer are the better team and unless they beat themselves, I just can’t see the Vikings turning the tables this quickly. I’m certainly hopeful over the next few seasons that Vikings will become more competitive with the Packers and bring this storied rivalry to high level.
AUSTIN BELISLE: An injury to Aaron Rodgers? Yes, but if we’re being realistic, it’ll take two things — improved play at the quarterback position and a pass rush that can disrupt Aaron Rodgers. Christian Ponder failed to carry the team — save for 2012 — and imploded in his only start against Green Bay last year. While out of reach in 2015, the Vikings have a chance to compete with the Packers for years to come, thanks to a young, talented secondary and a pass rush with Mike Zimmer at the reigns. Teddy Bridgewater is the key on offense moving forward, and I believe he is capable of going toe-to-toe with Rodgers.
BRIAN HALL: As long as Aaron Rodgers is around, this might be tough for the Vikings. I think the biggest factor – and one that Minnesota seems to be working on – is improving the defense enough to slow Rodgers. Green Bay can be hit or miss on defense, as we’ve seen plenty of times before. The defense has kept them from winning more Super Bowls. So, continued development from Bridgewater should be good enough to score against the Packers. The Vikings have to find a way to slow Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. That’s more pass rushing from the likes of Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen and improved coverage on the back end with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Harrison Smith. They have to stop Eddie Lacy and have enough quality cornerback depth because Green Bay always seems to have plenty of receivers for Rodgers to find. I could see Minnesota eventually making progress, but likely not this year.[/accordionitem] [accordionitem]
What is the Vikings’ biggest need heading into this year’s draft?
MIKE WOBSCHALL: Depth along both the defensive and offensive line stands out to me. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Vikings first-round pick in 2016 played any of the nine positions along either line. I’d also say you can never have enough good CBs and WR may be a position to look at, too.
ADAM WARWAS: Strong safety. A lot can change between now and the Draft, especially with free agency in between, but every other perceived need can be solved through a healthier roster or a free agency acquisition. With a major investment in Harrison Smith coming up soon, I think the Vikings will need to look to the Draft to find a better safety option.
BRENT LABATHE: I think it has to be offensive line. You could make arguments for safety or linebacker, but the defense is already very good with a revolving door at strong safety. This year, Teddy Bridgewater is the 2nd most pressured QB in the league. There is no doubt protecting him must be a priority for this offense to succeed and you can help your aging star running back while you are at it. I was keen on the Vikings drafting Brandon Scherff this past spring, but he went to Washington. The Vikings 2016 draft position will suit an offensive lineman nicely.
LINDSEY YOUNG: Depending on how things pan out with Nick Easton (and I admittedly don’t feel overly positive about), center stands out as the biggest need moving forward. I have a feeling that John Sullivan’s injury is going to be more long-term than originally stated, and although Berger has done an okay job standing in, he’s not a starter. On top of that, I doubt Berger will play after this season. I’m optimistic about Clemmings at right guard, and center feels like the bigger hole to fill. All that being said, however, strong safety is also a huge need right now, and I think the Vikings should address safety first in the Draft, as it’s usually possible to get a solid lineman easily into the second round. I know, I basically gave two answers…
ADAM PATRICK: As mentioned earlier, this might be the year in which the Vikings use a high draft pick to select a talented safety that can lineup next to Harrison Smith. Offensive line depth still seems to be a need with this team also. Watch out for a Spielman surprise if he decides to draft a running back that can replace Peterson within the next season or two. The depth of available running backs in the upcoming draft seems strong and it could be very hard for Spielman to ignore that.
CARL KNOWLES: Strong Safety, Offensive Line, and best player available.
AUSTIN BELISLE: If Antone Exum Jr. and Brock Vereen can develop into serviceable players this season, strong safety won’t be a pressing need heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. Looking at the roster, the biggest question mark remains at linebacker. Outside of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, who are the players who can step in now and thrive? I’m a fan of Audie Cole nd Edmond Robinson, but believe the Vikings lack a true, three-down middle linebacker. Zimmer’s increased use of the Nickel package negates this need, but having a player who can play every down in the middle is a luxury the Vikings can afford.
BRIAN HALL: Boy, seems like we are a long way out right now. I certainly believe the offensive line must be looked at. Bridgewater is in place. The receivers group seems to be much better. Peterson might not have many years left, but I wouldn’t call running back a need. Minnesota has made improvements throughout the defense, particularly at linebacker. As we mentioned earlier, a starting safety next to Smith is a need. I just look at how successful teams in the NFL are built. They have a good quarterback, a good pass rush and are good in the secondary. With Zimmer, the Vikings will have the pass rush. Bridgewater is the guy at quarterback. So, I think you need to protect Bridgewater and continue adding to the secondary. While Rhodes and Waynes have promise, you can never have enough corners, especially against Rodgers and the NFC North.[/accordionitem] [accordionitem]
The Vikings are a quarter of the way through their 2015 season and are 2-2. At this point, what record do you see the Vikings finishing the season with? Of their remaining schedule, pick one game that could be the Vikings biggest upset and another that could be an opponent upset.
MIKE WOBSCHALL: I don’t get into predicting the team’s record, largely because at 11:59 AM CT every Sunday, I think the Vikings are going to win the game. I will assume the Vikings will be favored this Sunday against Kansas City, so I’d point to that one as a game to watch. Sometimes teams are galvanized by injuries and by being heavy underdogs. As for the Vikings winning a game as an underdog, how about Week 17 at Lambeau Field? Odds are that game is going to mean something, perhaps (hopefully) for both teams. With Adrian Peterson, an improving Bridgewater and a defense that is clearly going the right way, I can’t wait to watch this year’s Vikings team challenge the Packers in their house.
ADAM WARWAS: I still think the Vikings could finish 10-6 if they play to their potential, but it won’t be easy. Our divisional games are always the most unpredictable, it seems, so those are always great candidates for upset victories or trap-game losses. Outside of those obvious ones, however, I am pretty concerned with what Seattle could do to us given how we looked in Week One chasing around a mobile quarterback. Conversely, I think we match up fairly well against Atlanta and could be a surprising underdog victor when that contest rolls around.
BRENT LABATHE: I’m sticking to my original projection of 10-6. The Vikings are coming out of the BYE week facing a 1-4 Kansas City team likely without Jamaal Charles and should come out swinging to the softest part of their schedule. Facing three teams with a combineD win total of 3 games (KC, DET, CHI), the Viking should be 5-2 as we roll into November. As for biggest upset opportunity, winning on the road vs the Cardinals would qualify for me. So would winning on the road versus. 5-0 Atlanta, although that’s mostly due to the Falcon’s record. As for the Vikings getting upset, I think Oakland provides a bit of a challenge and I’d also hate to see a team like Chicago beat the Vikings as they make a potential playoff push.
LINDSEY YOUNG: Historically, I’m over optimistic about the Vikings’ record, and I’m going to stick with my 10-6 guess I gave during training camp. I’m predicting that Minnesota will split the series with Green Bay, and I’m also counting on winning the first three games after the bye week–although I think the Chiefs’ 1-3 record is a big deceiving, and I don’t expect them to be a cakewalk. I don’t know if I can call Seattle an “upset win” anymore after it’s starting off 1-4, but prior to the season I would have counted the Seahawks as a loss, and I’m not calling a Vikings win on Dec. 6. Minnesota’s defense can get to Russell Wilson and Co., and the Vikings will be hyped up heading into a week where they play both Sunday and Thursday; a win over Seattle would be significant before heading on the road to play Arizona on a short week. And although the Giants are a completely beatable team, I could see them upsetting the Vikings in Week 15. Between New York’s tough rushing defense and the unpredictability that is Eli Manning, Minnesota could have a tough go of it.
ADAM PATRICK: The record this season is not as important as the progression of their young players going into next season is. So a season that ends with Minnesota finishing with a 9-7 record or better should be considered a success. A win in Arizona against the Cardinals on December 10th could not only be beneficial for the Vikings playoff hopes this season, but it could also be the confidence builder this young team needs going into 2016. Minnesota needs to be careful of their game on November 1st at the Chicago Bears. The Bears may be struggling this season, but the Vikings recent struggles in Chicago (seven straight losses) cannot be ignored.
CARL KNOWLES: The Raiders on the road could be a disheartening week 10 upset. However, the following week against the Packers could be a huge win.
AUSTIN BELISLE: A 2-2 start won’t sit well with any coach in the league, but Mike Zimmer’s Vikings have to be happy with the growth they’ve shown this early in the season. An early bye and a lack of major injuries means the Vikings have a chance to compete for a playoff spot deep into the season, and I believe they’ll finish the year at 10-6. Of the remaining games, the Oakland Raiders in Week 10 could provide a tough test, and like the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, a surprise upset on the West Coast. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have regressed this year and could struggle in Minnesota come Week 13.
BRIAN HALL: I’ll say 9-7, which should be good enough to at least be in the race for a playoff spot. It’s really not too far off what many people projected at the beginning of the season. The schedule out of the break looks friendly but there are some real tough games later in the season, like going to Atlanta, Arizona and Green Bay. If there’s a potential upset, I think it could be beating Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium. The Seahawks are still a good team but we’ve seen them not be as strong this season. They got safety Kam Chancellor back and all was supposedly fixed. But Marshawn Lynch is still hurt. Russell Wilson is taking numerous sacks. Cincinnati just orchestrated a comeback win against the Seattle, coming back from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter. These are not the same Seahawks we’re accustomed to seeing. If there is one spot to be wary of (other than NFC North road games) it could be the road game at Oakland, a matchup of two quarterbacks from last year’s draft class.[/accordionitem] [/cq_vc_accordion]