Question Of The Week

Projecting the Vikings’ Final Record

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. There isn’t much I can say about the Vikings’ recent slide that hasn’t already been said. It’s amazing to feel like we have to wonder if the team that was once the darling of the NFL will even make the playoffs.

Back to back division losses has brought out all of the skeptics from the fan base. Frankly, can you blame them? The team hasn’t done much in order to gain the faith of fans and after suffering a tremendous amount of major injuries, there doesn’t seem to be a silver lining.

Vikings Territory projected the Vikings final record prior to the season kickoff and as you can see, optimism was at an all-time high. Does it still remain?

What will the Vikings’ final record be and will it be good enough to make the playoffs?
BJ Reidell

It’s almost hard to believe the terms “Minnesota Vikings” and “Super Bowl” were commonly associated with one another just a little over a month ago. Questioning whether the Vikings would reach the postseason in October was laughable, but here we sit, mid-November and this inquiry is as relevant as crossing an interstate on foot is dangerous.

On the bright side, the Vikings’ downward spiral came at a very opportune time — if there is such a thing. With the Chicago Bears all but eliminated, the Green Bay Packers reeling and the Detroit Lions as consistent as a pubescent male’s voice inflection, Minnesota remains very much in the postseason conversation.

The Vikings are down but certainly not out, and a pair of wins over the Arizona Cardinals this coming Sunday and Lions on Thanksgiving could turn the tide back in Minnesota’s favor to stay. There are glaring issues that need to be addressed immediately, but the Vikings still roster enough (healthy) talent to finish with a record of 10-6, which may very well be all it takes to pace a weak North division.

Austin Belisle

Yikes, what a turn of events for our beloved Minnesota Vikings. That is, of course, until you think about our time of mourning before and during the first few games of the season. Teddy Bridgewater done for the year? Sam Bradford, oft-injured disappointment, here to save the day? No way this team is going better than 8-8!

Much to our amazement, the Vikings bucked the seemingly insurmountable odds, starting the year 5-0. But by some cruel fate, karma, or other unknown power, they’ve dropped the last four. It’s been ugly, disappointing football, the kind of play we’d expect from the Brad Childress or Leslie Frazier teams of old.

Still, the mistakes are correctable, and if injuries decide to quit ravaging this team, there’s a chance Zimmer leads the Vikings back to the promised land. I have a feeling they get back on track against the Cardinals at home, upset the division-leading Lions (really?) on Thanksgiving, and get themselves back to 7-4. A win against the Cowboys is unlikely — who are the Vikings stopping on the ground? — but I don’t think a four-game streak to end the year is out of the question.

That’d put the Vikings at 11-5, and I think that’s completely reasonable. Heck, I’d be willing to call it impressive given everything that’s happened this year. Playoffs? No doubt — the Vikings are winning the NFC North for a second-straight year.

Sam Neumann

The Vikings will finish 9-7.

We obviously have no idea which way this will go, but 2 things seem unlikely to me:
1. The Vikings return to their pre-bye form.
2. The Vikings finish the schedule winless.

For those reasons, I’m splitting the difference and expecting them to finish middle of the road. And yes, 9-7 should be good enough to make the playoffs. I think the defense will start making plays again and the offense will remain inconsistent, making them an enigmatic match up in the Wild Card round. 9-7 could be good enough for a division championship, so a first round game at home isn’t out of the question. The Vikings could surprise people there, but beyond that, I just don’t see a deep playoff run happening.

Brent LaBathe:

I curse my own name after watching the Vikings recent slide down the standings. In a previous QOTW, I said the Vikings defense was too good to let this team lose a significant amount of consecutive games.

Cue the defense looking like the 2013 Vikings all of a sudden and a team which relies heavily on their defense can’t seem to beat anyone.

I think the Vikings will regress by a game from 2015 and end the season 10-6. I realize that five more wins seem far-fetched, especially because we literally do not know who will start at left tackle on Sunday.

That said, I think the recent defensive performance is more of a mirage than the first five games and I expect them to regain form – at some point. Detroit might prove to be a sneaky team and 10-6 might not be good enough to win the division. If that is true, I do not expect the Vikings to make the

Ryan Anderson

Ryan is a life long friend and Vikings fan and took me up on my call out on Twitter today. I should also note that Ryan was the very first person in my network to call out the potential Vikings collapse – citing the game in Philadelphia reminded him of the 2003 Vikings who started 6-0 and ended 9-7.

The Vikings offensive line, decimated by injuries, will struggle the rest of the year to open up running lanes and protect Bradford. A shift to quick passes will help the offense but is not sustainable long term. The defense, built to play with a lead, will continue to play well, but not at the level they played weeks one through five. They’ll stay competitive most weeks, but will struggle. They’ll find a way to beat the Cardinals this week, who are also struggling with injuries. From there on out, they’ll yo-yo between wins and losses.

The Vikings will finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.

Joe Johnson

I would’ve loved to have been part of these weekly questions before the bye, as I can only assume that the questions were incredibly optimistic, with things like, “Can anyone beat the Vikings?,” “Bradford for MVP?” or, “Where are you going to watch the Super Bowl when the Vikings are playing?”. Unfortunately for me, though, I’m answering the questions after the bye but still would like to answer the last of the assumed optimistic questions as I think it ties into this week’s question perfectly. 

The way things are going right now, I assume that I’ll be watching the Vikings Super Bowl game from my adjustable bed in whatever old folks home takes bitcoin. Because the way things are going/have been going since the bye, this Vikings team and season are essentially a foregone conclusion, and SPOILER ALERT, it’s a depressing conclusion. So, to mix things up a bit, I figured I’d answer it a bit differently from the other writers (I’m assuming) and answer it from the perspective of what the team was attempting to accomplish this season as opposed to what I think their record will be and whether it’ll be good enough for them to sneak into the playoffs (even though I do answer those, as well). 

Clearly, the move this team made to acquire Bradford was done as an attempt to win now. It showed that this team thought that their window of opportunity was as wide as it was going to get this season, which did and still does make sense. With contracts and aging to consider next season, it did make sense to attempt to go for it now, especially with the brand spanking new stadium sitting there. So, the question of whether or not this team will make the playoffs, to me, is important. But considering what this team has given up to do more than just that, as the heavily implied goal was to win the Super Bowl this season, even if it was to the detriment of next season’s draft and this and perhaps next season’s salary cap, means even more. 

With that in mind, and for the sake of not being completely negative, I will say that there is the silver lining to this losing streak. Three of the losses (Eagles, Lions, Redskins) were entirely winnable (with the last two coming down to either overtime or the final drive(s)). The team, or more accurately Sam Bradford, is showing signs of life and some fight. That’s something that might change with the loss of left tackle Jake Long, however, as his improving play was helping lift the line and the offense simultaneously. 

With Long now out for the season, the offensive line is again having to either shuffle players around (left guard Alex Boone to left tackle? Jeremiah Sirles to left guard?) without the time needed to gel and the players needed to play at a decent level. I really think that this team simply won’t be able to overcome this injury (and obviously all of the injuries before it) and thus, I really can’t see them turning things around in any sort of serviceable fashion, especially as the playoffs are concerned. This offensive line has shown itself to be the most important part of the team (which should be common sense, but apparently isn’t, *cough* Spielman), especially with the defense allowing nearly double the amount of points (on average) after the bye than they were before the bye (12.5 vs. 22.25). 

The defense has gone from being compared to the ’85 Bears to being compared to the ’60 Vikings (because they’ve been tackling like they don’t exist). Coach Zimmer has come out and refreshingly taken the blame for some of the defensive issues, but it’s really not as simple as overly conservative play-calling during the Bears fiasco or sending three rushers instead of four near the end of the Lions game. The tackling has been sloppy, even from players that are considered to be the class of their position (like Harrison Smith giving up the game-winning touchdown against the Lions in overtime or Anthony Barr), which is disconcerting and confusing, as it’s difficult to target why that’s happening. 

Sure, the defense is on the field way more than they were before the bye and that creates more opportunities and more exhaustion. That is obviously tied directly to the offense and the offensive line. Now, especially early, the offense is taking a while to get things going (if they get going at all), which puts the defense on the field a ton. With teams running hurry up offenses and short passing plays as well, it tires the linebackers and secondary out, too.

I know, tackling is about technique and on that Smith tackle (or lack thereof) during the Lions game, he didn’t get his arms up at all, allowing the receiver to essentially brush him off and walk/flip into the end zone. But, I can only suspect that the reason Smith didn’t get his hands up was because he was too tired. Although, the Vikings did have a really long drive at the near end of the game that should’ve given him some respite, but who knows.

ESPN’s Ben Goessling wrote an amazing article that broke down the Vikings’ run game woes and essentially showed that the offensive line is to blame (it’s an obvious take but, just read it). Fellow ESPN NFL Analyst Matt Bowen recently said something that summed this up perfectly: “You can’t fix an offensive line when it’s almost Thanksgiving”. That sums things up pretty perfectly.

So, I see no end in sight and really at this point, unless Boone miraculously plays well at left tackle and Clemmings plays up to even the level he did last season (that’s the most depressing sentence I’ve ever written), then maybe, just maybe, when Adrian Peterson comes back in December and we’re a game or two over .500, we’ll make the playoffs. It’s not super far fetched with this division and really, conference. But, considering the fact that Boone has been injured multiple times this season and Adrian Peterson is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off of knee surgery, I don’t see that happening.

Part of me still hopes that I’ll turn the game on a bit late, as I’ve done lately as I hope that I’ll see the type of results that we had before the bye. That this team can figure things out. This would be the PERFECT year for them to do so, as there really isn’t a lot of dominant competition out there, especially in the NFC. That can is probably is changing as we speak, but for now I’m doing my best to temper my expectations so I won’t be incredibly disappointed/crushed by what is looking like some sort of neo-Mike Tice era situation.

But, considering the fact that Boone has been injured multiple times this season and Adrian Peterson is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off of knee surgery, I don’t see that happening. Sadly. Part of me still hopes that I’ll turn the game on a bit late and see the type of results that we had before the bye. That this team can figure things out. This would be the PERFECT year for them to do so, as there really isn’t a lot of dominant competition out there, especially in the NFC. That is changing as we speak, but for now, I’m doing my best to temper my expectations so I won’t be incredibly disappointed/crushed by what is looking like some sort of neo-Mike Tice era situation.

So, I do believe that we’ll end up at 8-8 or 9-7. We do have a lot of “easy” games on our schedule, but this team has had terrible luck this season and I don’t see their problems being resolved. Sure, the defense could shore up, but when your offense can’t give you any momentum or allow you to play with a lead the way you want them to, things will continue to slide into mediocrity.

Will that be enough to go to the playoffs? I think a 9-7 team will make the playoffs this year, but I think that because of that historically terrible comeback by Detroit two weeks ago, it’d be the Lions with the tie-breaker. 

So, with the injuries this season and the above issues next (cap space, draft picks, AD’s age/contract, Teddy vs. Bradford, fifth year options for multiple first rounders, etc.) join me in celebrating the 2018 Vikings! 

*****

 

Brent LaBathe

Brent LaBathe (Contributor) Cloud technology leader by day, sports nut by night, Brent is a local purple diehard who's passion for the team boarders on obsession. After graduating from St. Cloud State in 2008, he was a contributing writer for mvn.com and has always had a passion for writing. When he's not cursing his golf clubs for failing him yet again, he's constantly on twitter @BrentLaBathe.

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