Insiders

Teams Likely to Fall in ’16: Minnesota Vikings

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How many times do we see a team make the playoffs for the first time in a couple years, but then all of a sudden you don’t see them again for a while.

Unfortunately for the Minnesota Vikings, they’re a likely candidate to fall under this category.

This past season, Minnesota surprised many by dethroning the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North with a record of (11-5). Mike Zimmer’s ball club did it with defense, defense and more defense.

Minnesota finished fifth in points allowed (18.9) and they ranked amongst the best in team sacks (43), which tied for seventh with the aforementioned Packers.

However, the other side of the ball is a totally different story.

Yes, they have superstar running back Adrian Peterson, but outside of him, no one else strikes fear in opposing defensive coordinators hearts.

For the second straight season, Teddy Bridgewater was near the bottom amongst starting quarterbacks when it comes to touchdowns. The former Louisville product only tossed 14 of them last season.

On the bright side, Bridgewater only threw nine interceptions.

Nonetheless, there’s a fine line when it comes to quarterbacks having low interception totals. Sure, they deserve credit for taking care of the ball, however, one must wonder how many shots are they truly taking down the field?  And more important, how many are they missing?

Minnesota ranked in the bottom half of yards per pass attempt and while they ranked in the top five via the ground game, this offense was only able to generate 22.8 points per game, which ranked 16th in the league.

Their offensive struggles reared it’s ugly head in their playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, where they lost 10-9. On 23 carries, Peterson only ran for 45 yards.

When AP is neutralized like that, it puts Minnesota behind the eight ball, forcing Bridgewater to beat you through the air on third and longs. In that contest, Bridgewater threw for 146 yards to go along with zero touchdowns. Stefan Diggs, who was their leading receiver in the regular season, totaled four catches for a mere 26 yards.

Despite their poor offensive outing, Minnesota still would’ve won if only Blair Walsh could make a 27-yard field goal.

While the experience of playing meaningful football was good for this Vikings squad, whose to say they’ll be back next season?

It’s not as if Minnesota has made any ground-shaking transactions in the off-season thus far.

Their biggest acquisition has been offensive linemen Alex Boone and Andre Smith, which should give the Vikings a much needed boost in pass protection. In 2015, Minny allowed 45 sacks, placing them for eighth most with the Miami Dolphins.

Even if their pass protection is exceptional this fall, Bridgewater still doesn’t have a game-changer on the perimeter to throw to and the jury is still out on if he can even air it out at this level.

Although Mike Wallace didn’t live up to expectations, losing him still hurts an unit that’s already lacking production.

To be fair, Diggs had a good rookie campaign, hauling in 52 catches for 720 yards with four touchdowns, but relying on him to become a star receiver may be too much pressure for the 22-year-old.

The defense and Peterson can play at the highest level possible, but it won’t matter if Bridgewater is incapable of making big throws in vital moments.

For you Minnesota fans thinking I’m being too harsh, your own head coach doesn’t even love this team.

“I don’t think we’re very good, to be honest with you,” Zimmer admitted. “I think we played good in spurts, but here’s the other part: I’ve been complaining about the offense, but they don’t have three-and-outs, we don’t turn the ball over offensively, they for the most part controlled time of possession quite a bit, which helped us defensively.”

Zimmer continued.

“There’s a lot of things we didn’t do good enough,” Zimmer stressed. “We were good in situations. We were good in third downs for the most part, we were good in the red zone so that kept some of the scores down, I think. But we could be a lot better.”

As of right now, this team just doesn’t figure to have the firepower to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, but that’s why they play the games, right?


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.