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Football Purgatory

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Are the Vikings a serious contender in the NFC, or are they the King of the Bad Teams?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are nine games in to the 2019 season, and sitting at 6-3, your initial reaction should be ‘That’s a pretty good football team. It’s hard to win two out of three games in this league.’

But...questions abound. About a lot of things--on offense, defense, and with the coaching staff. For a team that entered LAST year with serious Super Bowl aspirations but didn’t even make the playoffs, it seems like the Vikings have a hard time firing on all cylinders. When one aspect of their team is working well, one or two others aren’t. It’s frustrating to watch, and almost impossible to explain.

On offense, the Vikings have one the best QB’s in the NFL, statistically speaking. They have one of the best running backs in the NFL, statistically speaking. They have, arguably, the best 1-2 WR punch in the game. The offensive line is a top 11 unit, statistically speaking.

So why does the offense look like it can’t get out of their own way for large stretches of games?

On defense, the Vikings are still a top 10 unit in almost every major category, statistically speaking. They have an extremely talented and deep defensive line that rotates good players in two and three depp at almost every position. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen are one of the best defensive end tandems at creating pressure on the quarterback in the entire NFL. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are a really good linebacker tandem, and Kendricks is on pace to have an All Pro year. The Vikings secondary is stacked with former first round picks, and S Harrison Smith is one of the top safeties in the league.

So why does the defense have lapses in play to the point they can’t stop backup quarterbacks from driving the field on them?

Head coach Mike Zimmer has turned around this franchise. From the time Dennis Green was fired until he was hired, this franchise wandered in the wilderness. They had one really good run in 2009 to the NFC Championship, a couple other one and done playoff seasons, but season after season was usually one forgettable chapter after another, with the exception of some individual player storylines. Zimmer has gone 53-34-1 since he became head coach in 2014, which means he wins games at a better than 60% rate, and navigated the Vikings to the NFC Championship in 2017.

So why does it feel like Zimmer and the Vikings staff in general is one step behind on game day, whether it’s play calling, clock management, or situational awareness? Since 2014, why are the Vikings only 1-13-1 on the road, on grass, against teams with a winning record?

Why do the Vikings continually play seemingly uninspired football in prime time?

Here’s my main question, though. Does your gut tell you this team, as constructed and coached, is good enough to go to and win the Super Bowl? If you feel it is, then we’ll see you in Miami. Super Bowl, homeboy.

If it isn’t, though, what do the Vikings do? Are they just a player or two away, like so many thought when Kirk Cousins was signed as a free agent back in 2018? Do they need to keep as much in place and hope that tinkering around the edges will be the fix that gets them over the hump next year, or do they need to start a tear down and rebuild?

I honestly don’t know what to think. My head tells me the 6-3 Vikings are better or as good as every team they have left on their schedule. They match up well against everyone, and they have as much talent at key positions as any other team in the NFL.

But I watch them every week, and I watch them beat mediocre and bad teams. Then I watch them struggle to get untracked against good teams, at home or on the road, and I am baffled as to why. I am coming to the conclusion that with all the talent, the Vikings aren’t great, they might be good, yet they aren’t bad.

They’re the King of Bad Teams, but they can’t take that next step into the rarified air of elite.

Bill Parcells famously said ‘you are what your record says you are’, and 6-3 is pretty good, as you’re winning 63% of your games.

But 62% of the teams in the NFL don’t make the playoffs.

Huh.

So, they’re right where the King of the Bad Teams would be. Good enough to win more than they lose, maybe good enough to get to the playoffs, but do you believe, truly believe, if the Vikings go to the playoffs they’re going to win it all?

This is the most unsettling 6-3 I’ve felt as a Vikings fan in a long time.