Going into the Detroit game last week, I knew the Lions had a good defense, but after five games, saying a unit is the top ranked anything in the NFL is still kind of a crapshoot. This isn't meant to disrespect the Lions--I knew they were good, but I didn't think they were borderline elite, and that the Vikings offensive line was borderline high school quality.
Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed in the loss. I thought it was going to be a bounce back game for the Vikings, and that they would win. 2-4 is a lot bigger hole to climb out of than 3-3, but as CCNorseman said earlier, the schedule loosens up a bit, starting this week in Buffalo. The Bills have been dealing with a few of the same issues the Vikings have, like a quarterback change early in the season, for example, but they did something the Vikings couldn't do, and that's beat Detroit. And they did it in Detroit. Still, this is a game I think the Vikings can win, but a lot of things will have to go right.
The offensive line needs to quit being offensive and go on..the...offensive: It's real simple for Messrs. Kalil, Johnson, Sullivan, Ducasse, and Loadholt: quit sucking. Now. Give Teddy Bridgewater time to throw, make a hole for the running backs, and give the offense a chance. If they play against the Bills like they did Detroit, Minnesota will lose. If they play like that for the rest of the year, the Vikings won't win another game. Yeah, it's that simple. And if they can't get it done, the Vikings need to start making some changes, or Teddy Bridgewater will be a homocide victim by week 10.
The defense needs to quit the first drive zombie walk: The Vikings offense has seen the loss of: Their starting quarterback, their backup quarterback, their top offensive lineman, their superduperstar running back, and their starting tight end. To say they're going through some growing pains right now is an understatement, so it's incumbent upon the defense to set the tone, early. Setting the tone early DOES NOT MEAN giving up an opening drive touchdown quicker than a teenage girl makes a duckface for a selfie, boys. They recovered nicely against the Lions, and overall played probably their best game since St. Louis, but they need to hold opposing offenses in check and give the offense a chance to grab an early lead.
Go back to Teddy Two Gloves, not Teddy Three Picks: Teddy Bridgewater has had two outlier games so far. That would be fine, but he's only started two games. So which Teddy do we have--the one that threw for over 300 yards and ran the offense almost flawlessly against Atlanta, or the one that threw three picks and struggled against Detroit? I honestly think he's somewhere in between. He's not going to throw for 300+ every week...but he isn't going to throw three picks every week, either. He needs to work on getting the ball out quicker, and he needs some help from the offensive line, and assuming both of those things happen this week, we'll see Teddy Two Gloves, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
The Vikings are going to have to pass the ball: One of the main reasons the Vikings need Teddy Two Gloves back is because the Bills have the best run defense in the NFL. If I'm Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, I'm not doing anything special to stop the run until the Vikings prove to me they can beat Buffalo in their base defense. That means, once again, the Vikings are going to have to effectively use the pass to set up the run. To do that, I would think they'll try and spread Buffalo out and attack the edges with quick screens and outs, and then try and run between the tackles. If they can't pass, they won't be able to run. if they can't run, it's going to be another long day.
So, with that being the case, if the line gives Bridgewater time to throw the ball, how about Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson live up to their end of the bargain and catch the ball when it's thrown? Are we good here? Cool.
Put the playmakers in: One of the things that really bugged me about the end of the Frazier regime was his stubbornness at sticking with veterans who weren't getting it done. I understand that six games in to your coaching career to start making wholesale changes seems awful fast, but a tweak here or there doesn't seem like a bad idea. For example, Chad Greenway seems to be healthy, and it seems like he's on track to start. Greenway's been a fixture in the Vikings defense for nearly a decade...but to be honest, Gerald Hodges has looked very good starting in his place while Greenway's missed two games due to rib and wrist injuries.
I know Zimmer and the staff love offensive line continuity, but that's kind of already been blown with Brandon Fusco's injury. So if the offensive line comes out of the gate struggling against Buffalo, it seems it's time to look at some changes. We're almost at the halfway point of the season, and benching someone, if for nothing else to send a message to everyone else, might not be a bad thing.
Finally, at running back, it looks like the Vikings have started the transition over to Jerick McKinnon. Against the Lions, McKinnon played 48 snaps to Asiata's 16, which is a dramatic switch from week four against Atlanta, when Asiata had 44 plays to McKinnon's 32. Last week could've been an anomaly, because the Vikings got behind early and McKinnon gives you more of a big play ability. Which, if you think about it, makes even more sense in playing McKinnon over Asiata. The one thing that won me over with this staff is their insistence that only the best players will play, whether they were a rookie or a ten year vet. They seem to be doing that, in some respects, but at 2-4, it seems that they could make a couple more moves, on both sides of the ball, to get their best players on the field.