by Michael Marek
This Vikings season has been a quiet storm so far this year. The Vikings have managed to stay relevant while still staying out of the national spotlight. They have lost some winnable games—namely at Seattle, at Washington, and at Indianapolis, and they have only been blown out once in a primetime game against our old central division nemesis Tampa Bay. The Vikings season going into week 12 can best be summed up as surprising. However, coming off a 3-13 season it really didn’t take much. This new era of Vikings football is a nice change from the circus that Brad Childress conducted. No more TJACK time or aging quarterbacks with text messaging issues, and you can put your 84 jerseys back in the closet. The Vikings have managed to stay out of the national spotlight and they are quietly making a run for the playoffs without the typical media fanfare.
These Vikings are constructed to win close games by playing smart football and by controlling the clock. The Vikings have been at their best this year when they have won the turnover battle, and successfully run the ball.
To find continued success we need to keep feeding the ball to The Beast, aka Adrian Peterson. Adrian is having a season for the ages. He currently leads the NFL in rushing—1,128 yards—and is on pace for over 1,800 yards. This would be the most yardage he has accrued in his stellar career. Needless to say it is even more impressive that he is at this high level less than a year removed from the devastating knee injury he suffered last Christmas against the Redskins. If Adrian stays in “Beast Mode” I don’t think any team in the NFL can stop him. If the coaching staff makes the right play calls and uses him appropriately that should mean that no one will stop the Vikings as whole, either.
The path to the playoffs goes through Green Bay and Chicago. We are once again in the position that we “control our own destiny.” Unfortunately when in this scenario in the past the Purple seem to find a way to make things more interesting than they need to be by losing the prescribed game and by needing “help” from a team like Detroit or St. Louis to simply have us “back into the playoffs.” In order to avoid that scenario this year we need to take care of business early against our divisional foes.
We come off the bye with a matchup against the Chicago Bears in Chicago. We have not won in Chicago since 2007. Peterson rushed for 224 yards and 3 TDs the last time we won. In order to find success in Chicago again we will need a similar performance by AP.
Following the Chicago game we head to Green Bay and take on the Packers, who have won 11 straight North Division games. In order to make the Packers’ cheese go sour, we will need to control the clock and keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands.
Games at St. Louis and Houston will also present challenges, but the first two games off the bye will show the true colors of this version of the Vikings.
With some luck by the end of December we won’t be talking about the Vikings controlling their own destiny anymore, but controlling whether or not to play our starters in week 17 against a Packers team that desperately needs a win to get into the playoffs.