clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ten Things to Believe In After the First Quarter

The first quarter of the NFL season is in the books. After four weeks of football, the Vikings are shining in a large number of statistical categories.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Can you believe it?  The Vikings are 4-0 and sit atop the NFC North in sole possession of first place after the first quarter of the NFL season.  Ted gave us a great Quarterly Report earlier today which you should check out if you haven't seen it yet, but after pouring over various individual and team statistics, I think it's worth sharing some of the most important statistics that should have us very excited for the rest of the season.  I'm not saying "Super Bowl" for this team (because, Vikings...and it's only four weeks), but I'm not, NOT saying "Super Bowl" either.  So here are ten of the most promising stats for your Minnesota Vikings.

1. Sam Bradford's passing efficiency numbers are phenomenal.

I don't have to rehash the story of how Bradford got here, and how little time he had to learn our system and playbook, but even despite all that he is playing lights out.  He may not be racking up a ton of yards, but after 3 games his QB Rating is 105.5.  That puts him in 2nd place in the NFL among passers with at least 90 pass attempts through the first four weeks.  His Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt rating (the one passing statistic that correlates the best with winning) is 7.42, ranked 10th best in the NFL.  Maybe even more impressive is that Bradford hasn't turned the ball over in 95 pass attempts.  He was the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft and is playing with the best team of his career.  As long as he stays healthy, there's no reason to believe he can't keep this up for the whole season.

2. Stefon Diggs is already a 1,000 yard receiver.

No really, he already is.  Remember that Diggs wasn't active until week 4 last year, and last Monday Night marked his 17th NFL game.  He played in 13 games last year and compiled 720 yards.  After the first 3 games this year he tacked on another 325 en route to a total of 1,045 receiving yards in his first 16 NFL games.  While this was technically spread over 2 seasons, can we really fault him for not seeing the field for the first 3 games of the 2015 season?  Also keep in mind that he gained all those yards with three different quarterbacks and with the vast majority of that being as a rookie last year.  Stefon Diggs is an outstanding talent and is poised to have a great run this year.  And bonus: he's shown great chemistry with Sam Bradford through three games.

3. The offensive line might actually be good at pass blocking.

Football Outsiders has a number of metrics for offensive lines, and one of them is "Adjusted Sack Rating" which is a measurement of the number of sacks allowed per pass attempt that are adjusted by down, distance and opponent.  By their metric, the Minnesota offensive line is ranked 8th best in the NFL after having allowed only 6 sacks on the year.  Some of this could be by design as Bradford is getting the ball out very quickly, but this is very impressive considering all the injuries that have decimated the offensive line.

4. Marcus Sherels is fast...really fast.

According to's "Next Gen" stats, Marcus Sherels was clocked running 21.17 mph in week 3, fastest among NFL players that week.  For context, here is a list of animals that Marcus Sherels could outrun in a foot race (according to black mamba, gray squirrel, house mouse, pig, polar bear, and a roadrunner.  All that speed has paid off too, as he has a punt return touchdown already this year.

5. Jeff Locke has looked much improved so far this season.

After a pretty rough year statistically last year, Jeff Locke has turned things around tremendously.  After ranking 31st in the NFL last year averaging only 37.8 net yards per punt, Locke is currently ranked 15th in the NFL averaging 40.6 net yards per punt.  This is a significant improvement, and while some of it may be related to the coverage units, he's still having a nice start to the year after dealing with lots of criticism last year.

6. Everson Griffen is tied for 3rd in the NFL in sacks.

As a defense, the Vikings are ranked 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 15 total, while Everson Griffen leads the team with 4 sacks.  That's good enough to rank tied for 3rd in the NFL with only Von Miller (5.5) and Kerry Hyder (5...who? ahead of him.  Speaking of sacks, Football Outsiders also tracks the opposite "Adjusted Sack Rating" for defensive lines (the one mentioned above for offensive lines).  And it should be no surprise, but the Vikings defensive line is ranked 4th overall in the NFL in that metric.

7. The Vikings are a Top 5 defense.

You can argue that we might even be the best all-around defense in the NFL, but it all depends on what you want to measure.  Here are their overall ranks in a number of categories:

Vikings Defense


NFL Rank

Points Per Game Allowed



Yards Per Play Allowed



Passing Yards per Game Allowed



Passer Rating Allowed



Rushing Yards per Game Allowed



Yards per Carry Allowed



This is the most complete defense the Vikings have fielded for at least the last 10-15 years, if not even since the famed Purple People Eaters.  Do we like Gruden's "Purple Rain" (or is it "Purple Reign"?) moniker for this defense?  Eh, it's ok...surely it's better than "Purple People Eaters 2.0"

8. Trae Waynes leads the team in interceptions.

Let that one sink in for a minute. While Xavier Rhodes is getting all the attention as one of the league's up and coming "shut down" corners, it is actually 2nd year man Trae Waynes who leads the team in interceptions so far.  He has snagged two interceptions in the first four games.  While he's still a little raw and has been drawing a metric ton of pass interference penalties, but you have to like his aggressiveness and ability to snag the ball.  At the end of the day he's still the #3 or #4 cornerback on the team, and to have two interceptions already bodes well.

9. Eric Kendricks is having a very good sophomore season.

Eric Kendricks had a pretty good rookie year last year leading the team in tackles with 92 combined tackles (72 solo) and racking up 4 sacks and a pass defense.  But so far this year he's been a terror in the middle.  With 31 tackles already (on pace for 124 combined tackles on the year) he's also got an interception return for a touchdown, a forced fumble and four pass defenses.  He's growing into a dominant middle linebacker and seems to be mastering Zimmer's defense.

10. The Vikings lead the league in turnover margin.

The Vikings are +10 in turnover margin after four games, which is really remarkable.  The next four closest teams in turnover margin so far are the Eagles and Bills (+6 each) and Raiders and Rams (+4 each), which makes this stat all the more crazy.  I would say it's unsustainable, but if Bradford continues to play efficiently without turning over the ball much and this defense is as good as we all think, it is a trend that could continue. Zimmer preached turnovers to this defense all off-season, and wants a disciplined team in all phases.  And after the first four games at least, the team has been executing.  I would expect the Vikings to revert back to the mean a bit and have a few games where they cough up the ball and Bradford throws a few interceptions, but it's tough to predict when and where that might happen.

Not everything is picture perfect though.  There are plenty of other stats that could be cause for alarm, and perhaps I'll highlight those in a future article.  But until then, enjoy watching this incredibly fun team in the 2nd quarter of football.