After a two week break, Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson is back with another column. This time, he explores the chances of the Minnesota Vikings making the playoffs.
The Minnesota Vikings start to the season, while surprising, has not been unimaginable. If we look at the first five games, the Vikings are right where they are suppose to be with a record of 4-1.
The one loss came against the Indianapolis Colts a team that many people think are a few years away from being relevant. They made up for that loss with a win against everybody’s favorite to win the NFC in the San Francisco 49ers.
The wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans at home were not anything surprising either. A win on the road against a division opponent, the Detroit Lions, was somewhat surprising, but not altogether shocking.
Most everybody could’ve seen 3-2 or 4-1 to start the season. What I would say is that we didn’t expect the Vikings to win the way they have won these games.
They dominated 49ers and Titans. Didn’t score an offensive touchdown against Detroit, but held the best passing team in the league to 13 points. They could’ve folded after Jacksonville scored with under a minute to go to take a three point lead. Christian Ponder threw a couple quick passes, rookie kicker Blair Walsh knocked one in from 55-yards and another one in overtime to give the Vikings a 26-23 win.
Their defense is young but it is solid. They are fifth in the NFC in scoring defense, allowing 15.8 points per game. While the secondary, which was the biggest question heading into the season, has allowed 6 touchdowns through the air, the Vikings have only allowed one on the ground.
The defense has plenty of room to improve, but if they continue to shut down teams, they will only gain momentum which does not bode well for teams like Detroit or Green Bay. A defense riding a hot streak plays with more confidence and is tougher to break.
The offense is still working things out, but they are not a glaring weakness. Percy Harvin is Superman in purple. He can run, catch or return touchdowns for the Vikings and is currently second in the NFL with 38 catches. He also has 13 carries so far this year, giving him an average of 10 touches per game.
Quarterback Christian Ponder hasn’t set the world on fire, but has done what he’s been asked to do, which is not turn the ball over and complete passes. He was the last quarterback in the NFL to throw in an interception and is completing 69 percent of his passes, second best in the NFL.
He has a quarterback rating of 95.5 which is better than Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford, to name a few. The one knock on him is that he doesn’t throw the ball deep down field, but the Vikings didn’t really have a deep threat wide out until Jerome Simpson played in week 4.
The schedule is the one thing that could have the Vikings staring at an 8-2 or 7-3 recording going into the bye weekend. Three of the five remaining games before the week 11 bye are at home, including division opponent Detroit.
The toughest one in the next five is a road game in Seattle, which I think the Vikings will lose, but that might be the only one. At 8-2, and Green Bay struggling to win, the Vikings could be on top of the division.
With that record, it also makes the playoffs seem like a good possibility. However, we need to look at what awaits on the other side of the bye. Four games against division opponents Chicago and Green Bay and road games against Houston and St. Louis.
Houston may be the best team in the AFC and have much larger aspirations than just making the playoffs. Green Bay could be fighting for their playoff lives while Chicago might be on their way to winning the division.
They Vikings could finish 9-7, dashing any hopes of even making the playoffs. Still, with this defense and the lack of turnovers they commit, the team does have a punchers chance of sneaking in.
They need to get to 10 wins to make that a reality, which means they will have to beat Chicago or Green Bay at home. I do not see them winning at either of those two places or against Houston.
Obviously, this is FAR in the future and it’s a long NFL season, but I have to say I think they will do it. Regardless, it is already a big turnaround from last season and the Vikings future is bright.
Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson is the producer of the Mike McFeely Show, which can be heard 2-5 p.m. every weekday on 790 KFGO. You can follow him on Twitter @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook.