The Vikings take their talents to South Beach this week to take on the Miami Dolphins, and in the process they hope to avenge the loss in Super Bowl VIII. What's that? None of the players on either roster were alive when Super Bowl VIII was played? Oh.
Get off my lawn.
In some respects, the Dolphins, as a team, are very similar to the Vikings--decent but not great running game, young quarterbacks that are getting better, and a pretty good defense that will keep them in almost every game. the one area where the Vikings seem to be a lot better situated, though, is the head coach.
And I'm not saying this from an X and O point of view, I'm talking more in terms of stability. Mike Zimmer is in year one of a pretty substantial rebuild, and by all accounts he has the franchise turned and headed in the right direction. But for Miami's Joe Philbin, things are little more tense in Miami. He's in year three of what is the epitome of mediocrity: 7-9 two years ago, 8-8 last year, and they are now sitting at 7-7. Rumors about Philbin's job security are swirling, and if the Dolphins can't close and finish 9-7, the consensus is he'll be gone. There's a fair amount of speculation that he's gone, anyway, especially if the Dolphins can win a bidding war for Jim Harbaugh over Michigan and two or three other NFL teams.
If the Vikings are going to help the Dolphins realize the Dream of Harbaugh, this is what they'll need to do to win:
Unleash Teddy: This is Teddy's team now, and as the Vikings running game has ground to something that's close to combat ineffective, let's see if the kid can handle the pressure of putting the team on his shoulders. He's done well so far--he has back to back 300 yard games, and the two bad picks aside had a good game against the Lions, a defense that's as good as any in the NFL. Bridgewater's built a rapport with Charles Johnson and Greg Jennings as of late, and since the playoffs are out of the question, let him chuck it all day long. I don't see the Vikings rolling into 2015 with Matt
Assinotter Asiata and Jerick McKinnon as the two top backs, so give Teddy as much as he can handle. McKinnon will be there, but yeah, since he's on IR, the running game we see Sunday won't be the one we see in 2015.
Still gotta run the ball, though. That said, you can't pass the ball on every down, and the Dolphins are 22nd in rushing yards allowed. I'm not expecting a ton of yards on the ground; there's just not a lot of talent at the RB position with McKinnon out, but an ability to put the Vikings offense in favorable situations is still pretty important. Outside of Bridgewater's scrambles last week, the Vikings were not able to do that successfully. We'll see how it goes this Sunday.
Can Blair Walsh get untracked? This is a question that's gone from a mild irritant to something to keep an eye on. Walsh has gone from Mr. Automatic to Mr. What The Hell, bottoming out last week with two misses and a block last week at Detroit. Granted, he wasn't going to make the 68 yarder, but he his accuracy from 50+ yards is now in serious question. He missed a 53 yarder against the Lions, and the Vikings also had a field goal blocked, and those two kicks turned out to be the difference in the game. I don't know what the issue is with Walsh, and everyone has a slump, so I'm not worried yet. But making only 71% of field goal attempts isn't going to cut in the NFL long term.
So how good is Ryan Tannehill? Of the four QB's drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft (Tannehill, Andrew Luck, RG III, and Brandon Weeden) Tannehill is the second best one behind Luck at this point, and is getting better every season. And that seems to be part of the frustration with Philbin--talent seems to be getting better, but the team seems to be stuck in neutral, for the most part. Tannehill's going to complete a lot of passes, but his average yards per attempt is good for only 30th in the NFL. So if the Vikings can tackle, they'll be able to limit the damage Miami can do through the air, and should be able to keep the Dolphins offense in check.
A road win would be kinda cool, not gonna lie: The Vikings are 2-5 on the road this year, which while not great, is loads better than it has been in recent seasons (no road wins in 2013). And outdoor road games on grass have been particularly tough for the Vikings to deal with, although the warm Miami sun in Teddy Bridgewater's hometown won't necessarily be a bad thing. The Vikings, as they proved last week, have little room for error in terms of giving up the ball, so tto get a road win, they need to sustain some drives, don't cough it up, and instead of settling for field goal attempts, score touchdowns.
It's a simple formula, but one that that's eluded them far too much in recent games.
Skol Vikes, beat the Dolphins.