5 Reasons Minnesota Vikings' Early Wins Were a Mirage

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIOctober 25, 2012

5 Reasons Minnesota Vikings' Early Wins Were a Mirage

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    The Minnesota Vikings may be 5-2, but it's too early for Vikings fans to be punching their playoff tickets.

    The Vikings have done it mostly with defense, ranking just outside the top 10 in rushing and passing yards allowed.

    But don't let that fool you. There are many issues the Vikings still face, and it's not going to get any easier the rest of the season.

    Here are five reasons why the Vikings' 5-2 record is just a mirage.

Quality of Opponents Thus Far

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    When looking at Minnesota's schedule through the first seven weeks, the only team that jumps out is the San Francisco 49ers.

    While the Vikings did pull the upset in Week 3 (24-13), the rest of the season hasn't been that impressive.

    In Week 1, the Vikings squeaked out a 26-23 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars before losing to the Indianapolis Colts (23-20) in Week 2.

    After the Week 3 win over the 49ers, the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions (20-13) and the Tennessee Titans (30-7). In Week 6, the Washington Redskins owned the Vikings (38-26), before Minnesota beat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7.

    Combined, those seven opponents have a record of 21-25. While not horrible, it's not exactly something to brag about.

The Rest of the Schedule

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    The last six weeks of the regular season are going to be brutal for the Vikings.

    Over the next three weeks, Minnesota has very winnable games against Tampa Bay, Seattle and Detroit.

    After a bye in Week 11, the remaining schedule becomes one of the toughest in the NFL.

    Starting in Week 12, the Vikings face the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers and the Bears again over the next three games. Road trips to the St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans will also make it tough for the Vikings. A home game with the Packers will end the season.

    For Minnesota to have a shot at the playoffs, they must win at least two of the next three games and take two of four from the Packers and Bears.

    If that doesn't happen, the Vikings will be sitting at home once again come playoff time.

No Passing Game

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    Nothing against Christian Ponder, but he's not a good NFL quarterback.

    While he is a lot better than guys like Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb, Ponder is never going to make a Pro Bowl with his arm.

    This year, Ponder is averaging 213 passing yards per game with only nine touchdowns, while also throwing six interceptions. Even more troubling is those six interceptions have come in the last three games.

    In the last two games, his total QBR has been 18.4 and 37.3. And that was against the Cardinals and Redskins. Imagine what he'll do against a defense like the Bears.

Defense on Third Downs

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    On third downs, the Vikings haven't been getting off the field.

    Having faced the most third downs on defense in the NFL, Minnesota is allowing a 43.7 percent success rate to other teams on third down.

    Compare that to a 34.8 percent success rate on offense and you will start facing trouble as the season continues.

    The defense has to figure out how to get off the field on third downs. The offense has to convert those third downs to keep the defense off the field.

    Four of their final seven opponents rank in the top nine on third-down defense. Minnesota has to improve there.

Adrian Peterson's Workload

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    While there have been no signs of a slowdown, there still has to be concerns about Adrian Peterson's durability.

    Peterson is averaging 19.4 carries per game this year, his highest since his second year in the league.

    Coming off an injury, it has to be a concern as to whether or not he can carry the load for the team.

    By Minnesota continually leaning on him, there's more of a risk for injury.

    While the running game has shown success this year, what if Peterson does go down with injury? Can backup Toby Gerhart carry the majority of the load? Or will Ponder have to step up even more?