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What Role Will The Minnesota Vikings Play Going Forward?

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Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have a record of 4-5 with seven games remaining in their 2014 NFL season. Our latest question from NFL Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk deals with what the Minnesota Vikings will be doing going forward.

To be GMC Professional Grade, you need to be driven. Assessing the second half of the season, how do you see your team playing coming down the stretch, in terms of the playoffs? What role does your team play in this final stretch? Is it spoiler, hunter, or contender? What do they need to do if they have a chance to get into the playoffs?

Well, in order to determine that, we need to look at the schedule going forward. Here's what the Vikings have following their bye week:

Week 11 - at Chicago Bears
Week 12 - vs Green Bay Packers
Week 13 - vs Carolina Panthers
Week 14 - vs New York Jets
Week 15 - at Detroit Lions
Week 16 - at Miami Dolphins
Week 17 - vs Chicago Bears

Thus far in 2014, the Vikings are 0-5 against teams that currently have a record of .500 or better, and 4-0 against teams that currently have losing records. Of the Vikings' final seven games, only three are against teams that currently have winning records (Green Bay, Detroit, Miami). If the rest of the season holds true to the form of the first half, it would be reasonable to expect the Vikings to finish 8-8, with the opportunity to spoil things for a couple of contenders along the way.

However, there are a lot of variables that could affect that. . .which, considering that this is the Minnesota Vikings, is a totally expected situation. The team gets tight end Kyle Rudolph back going into the game at Chicago in nine days, and who knows what, exactly, is going on regarding Adrian Peterson's future. The re-additions of Rudolph and (possibly) Peterson would give this team a markedly different complexion going forward than they've had for most of the season.

The team has a young quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who seems to be getting better every week. Yes, he has issues with the deep ball, but he's at his best when the team needs him to be. His fourth quarter QB rating is nearly 10 points higher than his overall rating (83.3 in the fourth quarter vs 74.9 overall). He also gets better on later downs.

1st down QB rating - 58.4 (three of his five INTs have come on first down)
2nd down QB rating - 82.2
3rd down QB rating - 90.5

In the Vikings' last game against the Washington Redskins, Bridgewater went 9-for-10 on third down. . .he missed his first third down attempt and then hit his next nine in a row.

If Bridgewater can continue his upward trajectory and bring the rest of the offense up with him, the Vikings could pose some serious problems for opposing teams the rest of the way.

The Vikings' defense continues to get better every week as well. Last season, the Vikings held opponents to 20 points or less in only two games (a 23-20 overtime victory against Chicago, and a 14-13 victory over Detroit in the regular season finale). This season, they've already accomplished that five times. They're also ninth in the NFL in total defense, and fourth against the pass after finishing at the bottom of the league in that category just a season ago. They lead the NFL in sacks with 30, and already have more interceptions in nine games this year (8) than they did all of last season (6). The team has really gotten a grasp of Mike Zimmer's defense, and should only continue improving going forward.

The Minnesota Vikings are currently moving in the right direction. I'm not sure if they can get into the range of "contender" over the next seven weeks. . .although winning their next two games against divisional opponents could springboard them into that range. And if Adrian Peterson finds his way back onto the field this season, all bets are off.

At this point, however, I think the Vikings' best chance is to play the role of spoiler over the next seven weeks, with an eye towards the defense continuing to improve and establishing more of an offensive identity built around Teddy Bridgewater.

What do you think?

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