Every season, every team in the NFL has to deal with injuries. Some more than others, but injuries, as they say, area part of the game. For the Minnesota Vikings, it’s no different. How teams adapt and deal with these injuries is what separates the great from the good, and makes the difference between going to the playoffs or going home early. From losing key players on offense for two years in a row, to dealing with injuries on the offensive line, the Vikings have had their fair share. And they’ve persevered, by combining a mostly mistake free offense with a dynamic defense. That combination worked again today, and the Vikings dispatched Baltimore 24-16 in a game that wasn’t really that close. And with the return of Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford in the coming weeks, the Vikings have rolled with the changes, and they keep on winning, haven’t they, messrs Speedwagon?
I knew it had to happen, felt the tables turnin'
Got me through my darkest hour
I heard the thunder clappin', felt the desert burnin'
Until you poured on me like a sweet sunshower
So if you're tired of the same old story
Oh, turn some pages
I will be here when you are ready
To roll with the changes
Your SMR that is questionable with carpal tunnel but is expected to play follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Latavius Murray, RB: Murray finally showcased why the Vikings signed him in the off-season. After sitting behind Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon early, Murray finally stepped up and looked like an RB1 today, going for 113 yards and a TD that an in his prime Chris Berman would have called a ‘RUMBLIN, BUMBLIN. STUMBLIN’’ touchdown run. I was concerned that the Vikings running game would really diminish after Cook’s injury, but both McKinnon and Murray have stepped up.
It’s still not hard to think that if Cook wasn’t hurt he would have gone for 150+ in each of these last two games, though. Arrrrrgh!!
Everson Griffen, DE: Griffen had another two sacks Sunday, and it was a bit of a milestone. How much of a milestone?
Everson Griffen is the 2nd player in Vikings history with a sack in each of the first seven games. Jim Marshall was the first, in 1969.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) October 22, 2017
That is some rarified air, indeed. Griffen also has a knack for creating a big play on defense just when it seems to be needed the most, and it happened again Sunday. Griffen has basically become a one man wrecking crew, and is arguably the most disruptive DE in the NFL right now.
Anthony Barr, LB: I think it’s safe to say that Barr is back to his 2014-15 form. One thing teams have tried to do, with almost no success, is run a basic screen pass. Barr seems to have a sixth sense about them, and blows them up almost every time. He had two tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and generally caused mayhem all over the field today.
Linval Joseph, DT: With the Ravens not having any playmakers to throw to after Andrew Sendejo knocked out Mike Wallace early in the 1st quarter, the Ravens needed to be able to run the ball to have any chance of winning. They weren’t able to, and Joseph was generally the reason why. Today, he had another great game and was the highest graded player per Pro Football Focus:
Jarius Wright, WR: Wright only had three catches, but they were for 54 yeards, which led the team, and each one was for a first down and came at a big moment in the game. I honestly don’t know what the deal is between the Vikings and Wright, but every time he seems to be given a chance, he makes the most of it. Yet, he doesn’t get a ton of chances. Weird.
Kai Forbath, K: Make the extra point, Kai, and you’re a blue chip stock. I bet if it was a 50 yard extra point you would’ve made it. Sigh.
Eric Kendricks, LB: Kendricks led the team in tackles for loss, but he also missed a couple tackles which resulted in pretty decent gains for the Ravens. Still, it’s hard to argue a better LB tandem than Kendricks and Barr.
Ben Gedeon, LB: Overall Gedeon has been pretty good, but Sunday he was out of position several times and missed at least two tackles. Easily his poorest showing of the season.
Buy: Case Keenum is one of the best backup QB’s in the NFL. It’s hard to argue that Case Keenum’s play is a large part of the reason the Vikings are 5-2. He blew up the Buccaneers, and has played, for the most part, mistake free football. He’s done just what a good backup should do, and that’s come in, run the offense, score some points, and give the team a chance to win.
Sell: Case Keenum needs to play even when Teddy Bridgewater and/or Sam Bradford are healthy. But all that said, as soon as Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford get healthy and can play, then they should. I don’t know how the QB drama will shake out in the coming weeks, or next year, and I don’t claim to know. But I do know that when healthy, Bradford or Bridgewater are both better options than Keenum, and that was made obvious by Keenum’s 5-13 start. He was off most of the day, and a decent percent of his throws are turned in to catches because of great plays by Jarius Wright, Adam Thielen, or Kyle Rudolph. Make those throws to other receivers on other teams, and they are incompletions or interceptions.
Buy: Danny Isidora and Rashod Hill are decent backups. When Jeremiah Sirles and Riley Reiff went down with injuries today, rookie Danny Isidora took over for Sirles, and Rashod Hill, who played most of the pre-season, took over for Reiff. They did a solid, if unspectacular job, in relief of the two starters, and were able to get the job done. They both made mistakes, yes, but they were leaps and bound better than what the Vikings trotted out there last year, by quite a lot.
Sell: Danny Isidora and Rashod Hill will start soon. While Isidora and Hill are no T.J. Clemmings and Willie Beavers, well, they’re not Sirles and Reiff, either. The running game pretty much got blown up on the left side for the remainder of the game, as they both missed assignments that caused more than one tackle for loss. Honestly, I like both of these guys long term, and think they can develop into solid players, but today also reinforced what a good signing Reiff was for the Vikings this past off-season.
Buy: 5-2 and in first place alone after everything? I’ll take it. If you told me that the Vikings ould essentially lose Sam Bradford after week one, Dalvin Cook after less than four, Stefon DIggs for the last two, and be in first place all by themselves? Oh heck yeah I’d take that, I think anyone would. It’s been a great team effort to get to this point, and wins against the Bears and Packers at home after a bad loss to Detroit were great bounce back games. It’s a testament to the Vikings coaching staff for getting the team prepared, each week, and yeah, a testament to GM Rick Spielman for overhauling the roster to get depth at critical areas, like QB, OL, and running back.
Sell: The Vikings are guaranteed to win the division. There’s still a lot of football left to be played, and anything can happen. The back half of the schedule includes five road games after the bye, including back to back games at Carolina and Atlanta. Those might not seem as daunting as they did when the schedule first came out, but it’s tough to win on the road in the NFL. Still, with either Sam or Teddy coming back (hopefully) after the bye, the Vikings are sitting in a pretty good position, all things considered.