For the Minnesota Vikings, the 2016 NFL season came to an end much earlier than any of us would have liked. With no more games on the slate for the purple and gold until September, this will be the last time for a while that we take a look at how the internet pundits view the team in their Power Rankings.
Yes, the Vikings finished the year with a decisive victory over a fairly bad football team, but did they convince people to actually bump them up as a result? Let’s have a look around.
SB Nation: #24 (Last week: #25)
No commentary on the Vikings this week.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: #19 (Last week: #20)
Heckuva response by the Vikings, after two brutal showings in which the defense allowed 72 combined points. Not on Sunday. Minnesota's defensive players put the going-rogue narrative behind them, particularly the secondary. One week after a few of those guys allegedly drew their own strategies in the dirt to (not) stop Jordy Nelson, the DBs caged the Bears' passing attack. The final tally read 140 net passing yards and two interceptions for Chicago passers, while Mike Zimmer's defense as a whole gave up all of 10 points. Credit Zimmer for not overreacting to the cornerback drama and keeping his players focused. Usually, drama is associated with diva wide receivers. Yeah, the Vikings WRs aren't quite there yet. Baby steps.
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: #22 (Last week: #23)
Sam Bradford setting the completion percentage record is funny. What percentage of those completions were checkdowns?
Cameron DaSilva, Fox Sports: #21 (Last week: #25)
After starting 5-0, the Vikings finished 3-8. Injuries and a lack of stability on offense played a huge role in their shocking slide from Super Bowl contenders to third place in the NFC North. In 2017, they’ll need to sort out the quarterback position with Sam Bradford in place and Teddy Bridgewater recovering from his severe knee injury.
USA Today: #16 (Last week: #25)
Some interesting decisions lie ahead -- specifically futures of Adrian Peterson and Sam Bradford -- for team that fell well short of its ceiling.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: #19 (Last week: #19)
They have to be the one team that can't wait to get past 2016 more than anybody. So many things went wrong.
ESPN: #19 (Last week: #20)
If we told you a team's quarterback would set the completion percentage record and that team's defense would allow fewer than 20 points per game, you'd probably think we were talking about a playoff-bound team. That's exactly what the Vikings did this season, and it resulted in an 8-8 season and a postseason at home.
Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football: #22 (Last week: #24)
I think Roger Goodell needs to step in and remove Sam Bradford's completion percentage record. Drew Brees set the record at 71.2 in 2011, but he actually threw the ball downfield. Bradford, on the other hand, just dinked and dunked, so he doesn't deserve any sort of acclaim. The Vikings, by the way, have to feel pretty s***ty about wasting a first-rounder on Bradford. They could have the 15th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft right now. Instead, they have their "record-setting" quarterback who is too much of a pansy to take chances downfield.
Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated: N/A (Last week: #25)
Apparently SI’s “final” Power Rankings were last week.
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report: #23 (Last week: #25)
This Vikings team drew comparisons to last year’s Super Bowl winner during its 5-0 start.
It turns out it was more like the 2016 Broncos than the 2015 version: great defense, above-average special teams and an average and predictable offense.
A midseason coordinator swap (Norv Turner to Pat Shurmur) did little to mix things up. In fact, it sunk Sam Bradford deeper into his comfort zone of five- to seven-yard throws. Opposing defenses noticeably sat on the short stuff when the Vikes fell back in the NFC North pack. And the dink-and-dunk passing game was the only thing they needed to defend; losing Adrian Peterson and a host of starting offensive linemen forced this group to abandon the run altogether.
That, in turn, forced Minnesota’s defense to make a play—or else. Remember: Mike Zimmer’s side of the ball swarmed quarterbacks and scored points throughout the season’s first quarter. When this group failed to do its job and the offense's job, the Vikings couldn’t compete.
Looking forward: Teddy Bridgewater is coming back—and with him, I believe a quarterback controversy. Bradford is tailor-made for this offense: Protect him adequately and he’s the better of the two. Especially if his old college teammate Peterson has one good season left in him.
Well, of the ten sets of rankings we look at, two of them made the Vikings a lateral mover after the final game (if you count Sports Illustrated’s rankings carrying over from last week to this week), while the other eight all moved them upward. For the season, the Vikings would up with an average ranking of #21 overall. They peaked in Week 6 with an average ranking of 1.4, and at the start of the season their average ranking was 10.2
Yeah. . .quite a nasty drop-off for the Vikings over the course of this season. Of course, in true Vikings fashion, it came after a sizeable rise in the first portion of the season.
Here is the final graph for this season. You may click to embiggen, if you’re so inclined.
Hopefully, when we go on this ride again next season, the peak will come much closer to the end of the graph to the beginning. If this wasn’t the Vikings, I’d make the bold declaration that 2017 couldn’t possibly be worse than 2016, but we’ve all been fans of this team long enough to know there’s no way that’s a certainty.