Welcome to the home stretch! via i.cdn.turner.com
Well, here we are! Four games to go in this disappointing 2013 season for our Vikings and yet, there is reason to be optimistic. Looking at the past four games, the Vikings have actually put together their best stretch of the season, with a 2-1-1 record. Some may smirk and say, "not good enough," but even those who are tired of mediocrity must admit that these past four games have been incredibly exciting.
A quick disclaimer: I won't be discussing any offseason / draft / tank talk here. The Vikings are not technically eliminated from the playoffs. We can cross that bridge when it lays at our feet.
There are certainly some ongoing crises with the Vikings, whether it be the QB situation, coaching blunders, off-field problems, or injuries. Yet through all that, the Vikings have proven to be resurgent, if nothing else. Here are five things which we can look forward to watching during the season's last four games.
Adrian Peterson - He's back to his old inhuman self. Adrian has really turned up the heat in the last two contests as he continues to recover from his groin injury. The 487 yards he's recently put up nearly match his incredible pace last year. The crazy thing this, the only thing holding AD back from duplicate 2,000 yard seasons are the things around him. With proper coaching, defense, and QB play, Peterson has proven that he has plenty left in the tank. He will continue to be the cornerstone of this franchise.
Audie Cole - FINALLY! For years I've complained that the Vikings lack the ability to find quality talent late in and/or after the draft. Besides Brandon Fusco, who was there? Jamarca Sanford? Audie may be better than both of them. I'm crossing my fingers that we've found a legit MLB without having to search abroad for one. While I can't say I was always on the Cole train, as most on this site were, I will say I see it now. He looks to have all the instincts required for an MLB. Most importantly though is his hustle and his play making. For a defense lacking in sacks and turnovers, his presence is critical.
Xavier Rhodes - X! While he has yet to nab an interception, Rhodes is starting to look the part of a great CB. Of all the rookies, he has played the most snaps, and that experience may be paying off already. Lately Rhodes has found himself in great defensive position often. After that, he goes beyond Chris Cook...he actually makes a play on the ball! X is just the perfect nickname for a corner back named Xavier, isn't it? I'm hopeful for future games where opposing QBs will have to cross out whatever option Rhodes is covering.
Health - On top of lackluster play earlier in the year, injuries started to pile up on the defensive side of the ball. What's more, the bug nabbed TE Kyle Rudolph as well. The good news is that both units have started to play better in spite of all the injuries. Hopefully such improvement will be bolstered by the return of key personnel, such as Rudolph, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, and Josh Robinson. I cannot stress how impressed I am by this injury-riddled defense.
Spoiler City - To try to put a positive spin on what may be a difficult ending stretch, let's just say that the Vikings have an opportunity to "let the hair down." The four remaining teams on the schedule have chances to make the playoffs, and we have the chance to smash those dreams. Of course, such a scenario means that BAL, PHI, CIN, and DET are quality opponents. Improved play against GB and CHI proves that this team will not quit, however. Wins now against legit competition will give us a solid foundation to build upon in 2014.