ED Note: Sorry for the delay, boys and girls. Real life got in the way today. I'll try not to let that happen again--Ted
4-1. First place. I can't tell you how much I enjoy typing that. The Vikings are in rarefied air, something we haven't breathed in since 2009, and quite frankly, it's a scent I didn't think we'd come close to smelling this year. I figured the Vikes would be better, in some ways because they couldn't be much worse, but did anyone expect 4-1?
I thought 3-2 was doable, based on the schedule, but 4-1 was my full on, purple colored glasses on while chugging some serious purple kool aid. But realistically, the Vikes should be 5-0, but for that last second loss to the lowly Colts.
Who might not really be all that lowly after all.
So what to make of all this? Elation? Guarded optimism? Trepidation knowing the schedule the Vikes have the last half of the season? There's a lot of questions still, almost as many as you'd find in the opening verse of Tusk, by Fleetwood Mac:
Why don't you ask him if he's going to stay?
Why don't you ask him if he's going away?
Why don't you tell me what's going on?
Why don't you tell me who's on the phone?
Why don't you ask him what's going wrong?
Why don't you ask him who's the latest on his throne?
Let's try and answer some questions, shall we?
Why Don't You Ask Him If He's Going To Stay?
This was a 3-13 team last year that couldn't close games and had two really weak areas that got exploited time and time again: the offensive line and the secondary. Those are now, arguably, the two best performing units from top to bottom on the team. Over the last three weeks, the Vikings have not only closed out games in their four wins, they've transformed, at least yesterday, into a team that went for the throat and dominated an opponent. The Vikes had a comfortable 23-0 lead, the Titans got a touchdown, and you could sense they had a little life back. There was a lot of time left, and the Vikings needed to end it. They promptly went down the field and scored a TD, and it was over. So to answer the question, yeah, I think this team is here to stay, and like I've said from the beginning, they'll be in the playoff hunt until the end of the year.
Why Don't You Ask Him If He's Going Away?
That's really the $64 question for the Vikings right now. 4-1 is a great spot to be, but let's not forget that the Vikings have some very tough games coming up down the road. For the next four weeks, they have games I feel that they should win: @Washington, Arizona, Tampa Bay, and @Seattle. They'll probably lose one of those games, and I would guess it would be one of the road games. So let's say 7-2 going into the break. That's when it gets tough. The last seven games are: Detroit, @Chicago, @Green Bay, Chicago, @St. Louis, @Houston, Green Bay. Minnesota's season hinges on their four straight NFC North games. Win 2 of them, and that's at least 3-3 in the division, and that's 9 wins minimum. If they can find one more win in their schedule, they're going to the playoffs. Go 3-1 in those four games, a playoff spot is virtually guaranteed. Go 1-3 or lose all four in that stretch and they're not dancing, it's that simple.
Why Don't You Tell Me What's Going On?
What's going on is that the Vikings have the most dynamic playmaker in the NFL at wide receiver in Percy Harvin, secondary receivers that are starting to step up and make contributions, and a running game that is one of the best in the NFL. Oh, and a quarterback in Christian Ponder that's becoming a playmaker, and not a game manager.
Let's start with Harvin. As good as Adrian Peterson is, as Harvin goes, so goes the Vikings offense. He provided an early spark on the Vikings second series of the day with a gorgeous 45 yard sideline bomb from Ponder. He capped the drive with a four yard run out of the backfield, and in the third quarter had a 10 yard TD reception. And I would argue that maybe Harvin and one or two other guys in the NFL could've scored on that play. It was a screen pass to the short side and Harvin actually caught the ball at the 15. He was boxed in by the sideline and a Titan defensive back trying to get through a Kyle Rudolph block to make the tackle. That forced Harvin back inside, where the play looked dead. There were three guys with the potential to make the tackle. The first one, a defensive back, whiffed on a beautiful juke by Harvin at the 13. But that allowed a linebacker and a far side defensive back to close. Harvin took a step back and made the linebacker miss, but now had two guys closing from behind him in pursuit. They went to tackle him at about the six, but Harvin shed the tackle and was in the end zone. Seriously, it's one of the best individual efforts I've seen, and that's why Harvin needs to get paid at the end of the season. Ridiculous.
Why Don't You Tell Me Who's On The Phone?
Don Glover is on the phone, and he wants a word with you. And it's a landline with a rotary dial, because that fancy schmancy cell phone stuff and the push buttons are for 21st century dumbasses, and that crap isn't allowed in the Old School.
"I think that Mike Moustache (Mike Munchak, the Titans coach) guy is a bigger dumbass than Frazier. That team is terrible. And maybe he's not a dumbass, bit I still reserve the right to change my mind. Now get off your ass and get me some more brisket. I'd get it myself, but I've earned the right to boss you around."
Dad, you reserve the right to think and do whatever the hell you want. I sure ain't telling you no.
Why Don't You Ask Him What's Going Wrong?
Right now, not much. The Vikings are hitting on all cylinders on offense, defense, and special teams. They're 8th in rushing, Christian Ponder threw his first two interceptions of the year yesterday, but has been one of the most efficient QB's in the NFL, the Vikings have the 8th ranked defense in the league and are back to their run stuffing ways, and rookie kicker Blair Walsh doesn't have a leg so much as he has a howitzer for a leg. This has been a great ride, and I hope it continues. And my Dad is not calling for the head of Leslie Frazier. Really, I can't tell you how much rare it is that my father doesn't demand that the coach be fired.
Why Don't You Ask Him Who's The Latest On His Throne?
We are going to be in Mid-October, and the Vikings are in first place in the NFC North. And I would make the argument that they have been the most balanced team in the division so far this year. The Chicago Bears are having one of those Chicago Bears years--they get a ton of defensive scores, and the offense (alhough they blew up against Jacksonville yesterday) is just kind of so so. Green Bay is 2-3, and they have two main issues. Their offense isn't bailing out their defense like it did last year, and their defense is just plain bad. Detroit is 1-3 and they look like a team on the edge of desperation. Their secondary isn't any good, and Matthew Stafford doesn't look nearly as good as he did last year. Will the Vikings end up the latest on the throne at the end of they year? I don't have the answer for it, but they're a legitimate contender.