The Minnesota Vikings are no surprise and no fluke. They are the real deal.
Earlier this summer I told someone that if Adrian Peterson is going to rush for two thousand yards, the Vikings - with their emerging defense - are going to win the NFC North.
Most people thought I was being facetious or speaking in hyperbole. I wish I were doing both.
Fact is, I wasn’t, and the Vikings were the one team I saw in this division that had a legitimate shot at the Packers’ division title.
Here we are nine weeks into the season, Peterson is on his way to a two thousand yard campaign and the Vikings have a one game lead over the Packers in the NFC North.
You could see the Vikings coming on last year under coach Mike Zimmer. He is a defensive coordinator by trade and will call the defense for the Vikings Sunday. Minnesota is 2nd in points allowed, 9th in yardage and 3rd in third down defense.
This week, Green Bay backup QB Scott Tolzien pointed out the balance of youth and experience he sees on all three levels of this defense.
Up front, Brian Robison provides veteran leadership, defensive tackle Shariff Floyd is the young guy in his 3rd season, with Linval Joseph the former New York Giant having an All-Pro year while pass rushing defensive end Everson Griffen is a force with 5.5 sacks this year.
On the second level, Chad Greenway, the 10-year All-Pro out of Iowa leads second year strong side linebacker Anthony Barr and rookie middle linebacker Eric Kendricks. Vikings GM Rick Spielman picked Barr in the first round in 2014 and Kendricks in the second round this year, and he hit on both of these young players.
In the secondary ,Xavier Rhodes is emerging as a top cover corner along the lines of a Richard Sherman. I’m not saying he is that good or ever will be, but he is a linear type who imposes his will on receivers at the line of scrimmage. Rhodes is their best cover corner.
Veteran Terrence Newman followed Zimmer to Minnesota from Cincinnati in free agency this year. He is the current NFC defensive player of the week after his two interception five pass breakup performance in the victory over Oakland last week.
In his 13th season he is the veteran presence in the cornerback corps while Harrison Smith the fourth year safety out of Notre Dame is nearing elite status. He has great range, cover ability (five Interceptions last year) and is an outstanding blitzer off the edge.
This defense is no fluke.
With the best running back in the game today leading the number one rushing attack in the league on the other side of the football, the Vikings don’t have to be dynamic in the passing game. They are not.
Second year QB Teddy Bridgewater is tutored by the best offensive coordinator in the game today, former head coach Norv Turner. The Vikings commit to the run (and why not?), are efficient in the passing game and don’t turn the ball over - just nine turnovers in the first nine games of the season, 4th fewest in the NFL.
Oh and by the way, Minnesota has committed the fewest penalties in the NFL, 48 - and only 16 of those penalties have been accepted against the offense.
The last thing I expect to happen Sunday is for Teddy Bridgewater and that Vikings offense to help the Packers with mistakes. This is a solid well-coached football team.
They will be tough to beat.