State of the North – Week Six

We’re six weeks into the NFL season and the Vikings sit at 4-2, tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North. Although this may not have come as much of a surprise pre-season, no Vikings fan should be disappointed with 4-2 considering what this team has endured so far in 2017.

Yesterday the Green Bay Packers came to town expecting to easily handle the Vikings sans Diggs, Cook, Bradford and Sendejo. Instead Green Bay left with an L and without their Baby Jesus, Aaron Rodgers who will miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone following a hit by LB Anthony Barr (Barr ending Rodgers’ career has been a fantasy of mine since we drafted him).

We all saw what the Packers are without Rodgers. They are nothing, they are the Browns. Let’s assume that Rodgers misses the rest of the season and Brett Hundley fills in. This is not a team that’s gonna make the playoffs so barring a return by Rodgers, they are out of this division race. That leaves the Vikes, the Lions and the Bears. The Lions handled the Vikings 14-7 while turnovers cost Minnesota the game and the team saw Dalvin Cook go down with an ACL tear. I think this Lions team has been handed some luck and was able to escape the Vikings game only because of injuries. Detroit has also been shaky as of late, the Lions just took a huge loss to the Saints who have been nothing short of terrible all season. This division also has the Bears who suck and even though they have a new rookie QB, they’re still gonna suck.

The State of the NFC North

Last week I would have told you this is Green Bay’s division to lose and that the Vikings and Lions each have a chance to contend for first place or snag a wildcard while the Bears remain an afterthought. Not anymore.

Green Bay: 4-2 (tied for division lead)

After losing Rodgers, the Packers were absolutely exposed by the Vikings. This team has no depth, maybe the most top heavy in the league. Losing Rodgers made everyone see how beatable the Packers are and now that they don’t have their guy, all their holes and weaknesses will be exposed by opponents game after game. I can’t wait for the rest of this season, just to watch the Packers get killed week in and week out, it’s gonna be awesome. Now let’s take a look at Green Bay’s remaining schedule.

Opponent

Prediction

Saints

Win

Lions

Loss

@ Bears

Win

Ravens

Loss

@ Steelers

Loss

Bucs

Loss
@ Browns

Win

@ Panthers

Loss

Vikings

Loss

@ Lions

Loss

If these picks are at all accurate (and they are), the Packers will finish in the neighborhood of 7-9, and hearing Cheeseheads bitch and complain about a losing season will be amazing.

Chicago: 2-4 (last in NFC North)

So that takes the Packers out of the division race. Onto the Bears. The Bears have been really bad for a long time and hopefully drafting Mitch Trubisky 2nd overall can help them in the future but I don’t see any rookie QB turning around a team as bad as Chicago. The Bears have a tough schedule, a rookie QB and nothing to lose. This year should be used to focus on Trubisky’s development. Chicago has a lot of upside in coming years and they did just beat Baltimore on the road, but I don’t see the Bears making any real noise in the NFC North.

What’s in store:

Opponent

Prediction

Panthers

Loss

@ Saints

Loss

Packers

Loss

Lions

Loss

@ Eagles

Loss

49ers

Win
@ Bengals

Win

@ Lions

Loss

Browns

Win

@ Vikings

Loss

Chicago should win about five games. This will surprise nobody.
Detroit: 3-3 (3rd in NFC North)

The NFC North is really a two-horse race. The Lions haven’t had many injuries and Matthew Stafford is Matthew Stafford so you kind of know what you’re getting with this team. The Lions are always intriguing because they can looks amazing or they can suck on any given weekend, and there’s really no way to predict what it’ll be. These Lions have looked good this season when Stafford is on; this team beat the Vikings in Minneapolis and lost to the Falcons on a fluke call that should’ve won Detroit the game. Their defense isn’t great and their run game needs improvement. Although they sit a game behind the Vikings at 3-3, I wouldn’t be surprised if some late season games decide whether Minnesota or Detroit takes the division. Keep in mind Detroit has lost three straight and will be without Golden Tate for an extended period of time due to a shoulder injury. Can the roar be restored?

Opponent

Prediction

Steelers

Loss

@ Packers

Win

Browns

Win

@ Bears

Win

Vikings

Loss
@ Ravens

Win

@ Bucs

Win

Bears

Win

@ Bengals

Loss

Packers

Win

That would make the Lions a 10-6 team. If these predictions are at all accurate, the kitties should give the Vikings a run for their money in this division race.

Vikings: 4-2 (tied for division lead)

Let’s talk about why the Vikings have won four games. Ball protection, defense and efficient drives. The Vikings don’t have a high octane offense and a pro bowl QB. What this team does have is a great defense, a QB with nothing to lose who protects the ball, an upper level WR core and a running backs group with everything to prove. If Latavius and Jerick can keep up their ground production, we should be able to survive the season without Dalvin Cook. If Theilen, Diggs, Laquon and Mike Floyd can keep getting open for case, we shouldn’t have to revert to putting in Sam Bradford, whose career looks all but done after last weeks win over the Bears.

teddy case.jpg

Teddy Bridgewater could also come into play if he gets cleared. He was cleared to practice by his surgeon for the first time in over 14 months. Remember, Teddy had command of the team when he was last the starter. The Vikings finished 2015 11-5 and should have won a playoff game. A healthy Teddy Bridgewater would do huge things for the Vimongs’ locker room and give the fanbase some hope at QB going forward. Case hasn’t been bad this year, we he hasn’t cost us any games and he;s kept us in every one besides week 2 at Pittsburgh. Although it wasn’t planned and there may be better options available, Case Keenum is our guy and he’s given us every reason to play him going forward.

Case Keenum 2017 Stats:

Games

COMP. ATT. % YDS Y/G TD INT RTG

Record

5 102 159 64.2 1,134 226.8 5 1 93.1

3-2

Although not elite, there is nothing wrong with these numbers whether they were put up by Keenum, Bradford or Bridgewater. Case is doing just enough to win while avoiding costly mistakes. This is by far Keenum’s best season start to a season to date.

It’s not an easy task to win the division with the 3rd or 4th best QB but when injuries plague other teams and you have a good defense, you don’t need a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers to win games, although it doesn’t hurt. Just imagine if this team was healthy; having Cook, Bradford and Diggs available would make our offense just as lethal as the defense. If it weren’t for these costly injuries, this team could be 5-1 or 6-0 looking at a 12 win season and a run in the wide-open NFC. Baltimore at home should be a good test next week. The Ravens usually play to their opponents whether good or bad so expect a close, low-scoring game. I’m thinking 24-17 Vikings.

Assuming Case Keenum’s play plateaus and the defense continues to dominate, here’s how things could shake out:

Opponent

Prediction

Ravens

Win

@ Browns

Win

@ Redskins

Loss

Rams

Win

@ Lions

Win
@ Falcons

Loss

@ Panthers

Loss

Bengals

Win

@ Packers

Win

Bears

Win

Not an easy remaining schedule by any means, going even just .500 over the next 10 would give them a winning record. Keep in mind my pre season prediction for this team was an 11-5 finish. If an NFC North team goes 11-5 they will win the division.


RELATED: 2017 Vikings Season Preview

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