The Minnesota Vikings got out to a red-hot start this year, beginning the season 4-1 and cementing themselves as a contender in the NFC North. Since their blowout victory at home against the Titans the Vikings have lost 3 out of 4 to fall to 5-4, which leaves them third in the contentious NFC North. While Minnesota certainly has some corrections to make if they want to get back on track, at least their deficiencies are easily identifiable. There have been two major drop-offs that can be attributed to their recent losses, and that is quarterback and defensive play.
The Vikings 4-1 start saw them playing exceptionally well on the defensive side of the ball, and through their first 5 games they were allowing a very respectable 15.8 points against. Two of those games came against weak opponents in Jacksonville and Tennessee, but they still managed to stifle the Detroit’s second ranked offense and defeat one of the best teams in the league in San Francisco. Since the fast start the Vikings have given up 29.5 points against, and this disparity is not to be overlooked. At the beginning of the season the Vikings established themselves as a defensive team that could pound the ball, but this identity has changed in subsequent weeks.
The other glaring inadequacy of late is the play of quarterback Christian Ponder. After being highly praised as the Vikings started out strong, Ponder has languished during the Vikings’ recession. Ponder began the year averaging 216.4 YPG through the air but that figure fell to 181 YPG over the last four contests. In two of his last three starts Ponder has put up 58 and 63 yards respectively, which is a paltry figure even by bad NFL quarterback standards (Ponder was significantly outplayed by Cardinals QB John Skelton if that is any indication).
The Vikings’ poor start, Ponder’s recent struggles, and the defensive issues are all not happening independently of each other (as Simon Cowell would say, well that’s the surprise of the century). Minnesota is currently sitting on the 5th ranked rushing offense in the NFL, and with Adrian Peterson growing stronger every week it can easily be argued that the Vikings have the potential for the best rushing attack in the league.
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Over the last four games Ponder has proven that when the defense allows Minnesota to get behind and they are forced to pass, the results aren’t pretty. Until Ponder can force teams to be more honest they are going to stack the box against Peterson even more than we have seen already this year. They will double cover Percy Harvin and make Ponder beat them with someone else, and if this oppositional defensive strategy is successful then the Vikings may be in real trouble.
Vikings’ next four opponents: Lions, Bears, Packers, Bears