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We all saw the pre-season predictions for the Minnesota Vikings in the later part of the summer and into the start of Training Camp. Most of them showed three victories, four victories. . .I think I might have seen one pre-season prediction that put the Vikings on a lofty pedestal at 6-10. The consensus was that the Vikings were destined to finish in fourth place in the NFC North. I won't lie. . .that was my belief as well. I thought the Vikings were in the midst of a rebuilding campaign and, as one of the youngest teams in the NFL, would take a while to gel to a point where they would be competitive.
Well, it would appear as though I was wrong, and I couldn't be happier to see it after what this team and this fan base has gone through over the last two years.
There are plenty of people out there that will give you any excuse they can to paint the Vikings' start as a fluke. I've heard that the Vikings haven't played anyone yet, which is hilarious. Yes, I'll grant that the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans aren't exactly world-beaters (with all due respect to fans of those teams). Beyond that, the "they haven't played anyone" argument really doesn't hold water.
The one team the Vikings lost to, the Indianapolis Colts, were good enough to beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon. You know, the Packers that have been pretty much everyone's pick to win the Super Bowl these past two seasons? Yeah, they lost to the "lowly" Colts, too. . .except that Colts team isn't so lowly any more, not with Andrew Luck at the helm.
The San Francisco 49ers? I've heard the excuse that they "overlooked" the Vikings and they "weren't ready" to play them. The Niners beat two NFC North teams in the first two weeks of the season, and have won their last two games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills by a combined score of 79-3. In between, they managed a whole 13 points in a loss at Minnesota. I don't buy the "overlooked" or "weren't ready" thing, and even if that was the case, that's nobody's fault but theirs. Victories don't get taken off the board because a team was "unprepared."
The Detroit Lions were a playoff team in 2011, and are capable of putting up points in bunches at any time. They, also, managed 13 points in a loss to Minnesota, and they lost to the same Titans team that Minnesota just put a pretty thorough beating on.
It just makes me wonder when the point comes where the "experts" stop saying "the Vikings opponents beat themselves" and start saying "the Minnesota Vikings are a hell of a lot better than we thought they'd be." Because the Minnesota Vikings are a hell of a lot better than anyone, even the most staunch of fans, thought they would be five games into this season. They're a last-second Andrew Luck drive from potentially being 5-0. As I mentioned, very few people thought they would win that many games all season long, but just five weeks into the season, they've already passed their win total from 2011.
The Vikings have done it with a balanced approach. The defense, which was second-worst in the league in points allowed in 2011, is allowing just 15.8 points/game in 2012. They've been outstanding against the run and, surprisingly, against the pass this season, and on Sunday allowed the Titans just 96 yards through the first three quarters of play, and kept them off the scoreboard until they basically called off the dogs late in the fourth quarter.
The pass offense has been growing and developing, and even with Christian Ponder's two interceptions on Sunday against the Titans, he still has a quarterback rating on the season of 95.5. . .still impressive. Adrian Peterson has come back nicely from his awful knee injury, and has been averaging a healthy 5 yards/carry the past two games.
The special teams have been very good this season as well. Blair Walsh has been outstanding on field goals, adding three more on Sunday, and has been consistently pinning opponents at the 20-yard line on kickoffs this season. Chris Kluwe has been very good as well, Marcus Sherels has been solid on punt returns. . .and then there's Percy Harvin.
I can't say enough about Percy Harvin to this point in the season. If he's not the best wide receiver in football right now, he's on a very short list of receivers that can make that claim. Sure, guys like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones are great. But none of them are asked to do the kind of things that Percy Harvin can do, and even if they were asked to do those things, I'm not sure if they could do them. Seriously, look at this:
Go ahead. . .give me the list of players in the NFL that you think score a touchdown in that spot.
Harvin's price tag goes up every single week, and I hope that he's a member of this football team for a very long time. We've long said that Antoine Winfield is, pound-for-pound, the toughest defensive player in the NFL. Offensively, pound-for-pound, I'm not sure if there's a player in the NFL that's tougher than Percy Harvin.
Enjoy it, Vikings fans. . .after having to deal with everything from the last year of the Favre drama to the stadium falling apart to the Donovan McNabb era and everything in between, it appears that we might finally be able to have nice things again. It's been great to share and experience it with all of you out there, and I hope that you'll stay along for the ride the rest of the way.