Hey, everybody. Both Ted and Eric are unavailable to do this week’s Stock Market Report, so I’m going to take a whack at this one. Hopefully I can do it justice.
This afternoon’s contest had plenty of ups and downs for fans of the Minnesota Vikings. There was the second quarter, where the Vikings showed as much energy as they had at any point since their five-game winning streak. That was the high point of the roller coaster for this week. However, rather than descending into an amazing, fun-filled thrill ride, we just slowly sort of lurched down the hill into the slow, painful inevitability of another painful loss to put a damper on a season that started out with so much promise.
It’s almost enough to make you ask yourself. . .what’s going on?
And so I cry sometimes when I'm lying in bed
Just to get it all out, what's in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs
What's goin' on?
And I say hey, hey
I said hey, what's goin' on?
And I say hey, hey
I said hey, what's goin' on?
Enough of this, let’s get to the SMR, shall we?
Blue Chip Stocks
Stefon Diggs, WR - Over the course of the past two weeks, we’ve seen what we all got so excited about with Diggs before the season started. Over the past two weeks, he’s caught 26 passes, but he really put on a show today in his return to his hometown. He caught 13 passes for 164 yards, and was Bradford’s lone target on the team’s final drive, picking up six catches on that drive alone and putting the Vikings in a position to tie. Diggs has everything a receiver needs to be a star at the National Football League level, and if Pat Shurmur’s offense is going to see him getting the ball at this frequency, then the rest of the league is going to know who he is, too.
That’s it for the blue chips for this one, I think.
Sam Bradford, QB - Given the fact that the Vikings have absolutely nothing that resembles a running threat at this point, I’m not sure how exactly Bradford is pulling this off. For most of the game on Sunday, he was on fire. He finished the first half completing 16-of-20 passes and led the team on three straight scoring drives to end the half, and really giving the Vikings a chance in this one. However, he threw a pretty awful pick in the fourth quarter, and took an even worse sack on Minnesota’s final drive to pretty much end the Vikings’ chances. He was sacked three times, but two of those were on the final series and he got no help on either of those plays. Overall, Bradford had a pretty solid afternoon.
Kyle Rudolph, TE - After disappearing against Detroit with one catch for one yard, Rudolph showed once again that he could be a reliable target for Bradford. He hauled in five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown that saw him tiptoe down the right sideline and get into the end zone. I’ve said this in the past, but this is the sort of thing that Rudolph is supposed to be. He’s huge and got a pretty impressive catch radius, so he should be someone that could reliably be asked to move the chains on third downs and be a red zone threat. Pat Shurmur’s offense loves tight ends, so hopefully games like this from Rudolph will be the norm going forward and not the exception.
Everson Griffen, DE - The only member of the Vikings’ pass rush that has really shown up the past few weeks, Griffen had a pretty good game on Sunday. He did a decent job of getting after Kirk Cousins, including forcing him to step up into Danielle Hunter to limit the Redskins to a field goal attempt on their final drive. He also had a fumble recovery at the end of the first half that set up what was, at the time, the go-ahead score. Though he didn’t do as much as he probably could have against a backup offensive tackle, he still had a pretty good game, I thought.
Blair Walsh, K - You know, I don’t want to hear about how bringing in kickers for tryouts last week “lit his competitive fire” or whatever else. I want to see him make. . .freaking. . .kicks. He can’t do it. Just can’t. Nobody in the NFL has missed more kicks than Walsh has this year (combining both field goals and extra points). He didn’t get an opportunity to miss any field goals, and he missed one of his three extra point attempts. We did get this bit of merriment from ESPN’s John Clayton, however.
You have to figure with that missed extra point that this is Blair Walsh's last game with the Vikings.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) November 13, 2016
Oh, John. You would think that, wouldn’t you? But I’d be just as willing to wager that it won’t be.
Walsh wasn’t the only offender today, but we’ll get to more in the next section here.
Buy: The Vikings’ offense is better - I do think that the Vikings’ defense has gotten significantly better since Pat Shurmur took the reins. They’re moving the ball between the 20s, and this week they started converting when they got into the red zone this week, going three-for-three on that front. When you contrast things to the two games before Shurmur took over, the Minnesota offense looks like it might be coming around.
Sell: The Vikings’ offense is good enough - That said, this team still has too many issues offensively, and the defense hasn’t been able to cover up for them anymore. Some of this has to do with penalties at inopportune times, and some of it has to do with just a complete lack of execution. They could continue to get better, but we should be past the “building” stage at this point of the season. Time is running short, and with the Vikings now on a four-game skid, the chances to get things turned around are getting fewer.
Buy: The Vikings’ rush offense is historically (and hysterically) bad - I’ve been a fan of the National Football League, and of the Minnesota Vikings, for over 30 years. Never in my life have I seen a team struggle so much to get one. . .freaking. . .yard. Honestly, when there’s one yard to go, the Vikings apparently go into Tecmo Bowl mode. There’s generally only one play in the playbook (give up the middle to Matt Asiata), and everybody in the freaking stadium knows that it’s coming. When the Vikings got to first-and-goal at the 1, they hammered Asiata up the middle three straight times. Sure, it eventually worked, but there are plenty of other times that it hasn’t.
Sell: Adrian Peterson is going to fix this run game - The Vikings weren’t running the ball worth a damn with Peterson in the lineup. Peterson was averaging 1.6 yards/carry before he got hurt, and we don’t know what sort of shape he’s going to be in if/when he comes back. This is an issue with the offensive line not being able to run block worth a damn, and Adrian Peterson isn’t going to fix that. At this point, it doesn’t appear that anyone else is going to fix it, either.
Buy: This defense is still very good - This defense still has the talent to be a very good unit. They’re still likely going to be #1 or #2 in the NFL in points allowed after this week’s games, and when you’re giving up that few points, you should be able to win football games. Sure, injuries have started to take their toll on the defensive side of the ball as well, but teams aren’t running up the score against the Vikings by any stretch. It’s generally just come down to a stop here and a stop there over the past few games, and the Vikings just haven’t been getting them.
Sell: This defense is firing on all cylinders - That said, there are still some pieces of this defense that haven’t been playing up to the level that we’re accustomed to. I’m not sure what’s happened to Anthony Barr this season, but he’s really disappeared after spending his first two years looking like one of the NFL’s next great linebackers. Eric Kendricks may have come back too soon from his injuries. Xavier Rhodes, literally, gets hurt in some way every week. I know that the Vikings are deep on the defensive side, but eventually even those depth guys have to make plays when they’re called on, and they’re not doing it.
Buy: The Vikings’ season is in serious trouble - According to ESPN, there have been 120 teams that have started 5-0 in NFL history. The Vikings are the third team to follow those five straight wins with four straight losses. Minnesota is now in second place in the NFC North behind the Detroit Lions, and in just five weeks have gone from being the #1 seed in the NFC to being on the fringes of the playoff picture, if not completely out of it as things stand right now. This is why Mike Zimmer makes the big bucks. . .he needs to get something figured out and he needs to do it quickly. I don’t think he’s in any danger of getting fired or anything, but he might be starting to lose some of his shine in some circles.
Sell: The Vikings’ season is over - That said, the Vikings and Lions are both only at 5-4 on the season, and there’s still seven games left to be played, including a rematch with Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. This Vikings’ team still has a lot of talent, but the talent needs to get their stuff together sooner rather than later for this season to not end up being completely lost.
Quote of the Week
Honestly, I haven’t got one. Sorry about that.
Ted will be back in his normal spot here next week, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll see you back here on the site as we get closer to the Vikings’ next game.