Coming into the 2015 NFL season, many believed that the Minnesota Vikings would be in contention for the playoffs. Did anyone expect them to be 7-2 and in first place of the NFC North? Probably not, but that’s where they currently sit. Minnesota has won five straight since coming off of their bye week.
The Vikings are off to a great start led by the rushing game, averaging 147.1 YPG, which is led by Adrian Peterson, who is on pace to eclipse the 2,000 yard plateau, which will make him the first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000-plus yards twice in a career. He was eight yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season record back in 2012. Through the first nine games Peterson has rushed for 961 yards and five touchdowns. The next closest rusher to Peterson is Chris Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals with 734 yards. Peterson is well on his way to being the league’s leading rusher at the age of 30. What makes this even more impressive is the fact that AD missed all but one game last year due to his off-the-field issues/suspension. So an entire year off and he’s picking up like he never missed a down, especially at his age when that’s usually the age that running backs start to decline. In a day and age where the passing game is far more superior to the rushing attack, Peterson is proving why he’s the best back in football.
As for the guy who hands the ball to Peterson, second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater came into the season with a ton of hype entering this season after a pretty good rookie campaign. After being selected with the last pick of the first round of the NFL draft in 2014 out of Louisville, Bridgewater threw for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This season hasn’t been what many believed it could be. On the season he has passed for 1,810 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He has just four games with 200 or more passing yards including a game in which he threw for over three hundred yards and two touchdowns. That was his lone multi-touchdown game of the season thus far. Bridgewater is the second leading rusher on the team with 116 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota ranks 31st in total offense despite having the number one rushing game. Bridgewater throws for 181.4 yards per game, which will need to improve if this team wants to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders.
Bridgewater’s favorite target has been rookie Stefon Diggs, a 21-year old rookie that was drafted in the fifth round. Diggs has caught 30 receptions for 507 yards and two touchdowns. He is on pace to become the second Minnesota rookie to be a 1,000-yard receiver. The other guy was Randy Moss. That’s elite company to be in and he didn’t play in the first three games of the season. Mike Wallace is second on the team in receptions with 28 for 318 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Kyle Rudolph leads the team in receiving touchdowns with three to go with 23 catches and 182 yards. Peterson is the fourth leading receiver with 19 catches for 138 yards.
The Vikings have a good enough defense to win games. They rank 9th overall in yards allowed per game, giving up 336.6 yards-per-game. They rank 9th against the run and 15th against the pass, while giving up the fewest amount of points per game at 17.1. Linebacker Anthony Barr leads the team in tackles with 47. Rookie linebacker Eric Kendrics out of UCLA is second on the team in tackles (42) and sacks (4.0). Everson Griffen leads the team in sacks with 5.5. The Vikings have just 21 sacks on the season.
The jury is still out on the Vikings who have a tough road ahead of them starting with a home contest against the Green Bay Packers, who have lost three straight games, this Sunday. If Peterson can continue to carry the load and Bridgewater can step his game up, this team will have a good chance of winning the division and making a decent run in the playoffs.