Minnesota Vikings: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 9

Tim Arcand@@TArcandCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2013

Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL with 39.1 yards per kickoff return.
Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL with 39.1 yards per kickoff return.

Another week, another tough-to-watch game for the Minnesota Vikings. This is the third time since 1990 that the Vikings have opened the season 1-6, and if history is any indication, the odds are good that the Vikings will win more games the rest of the way than they have so far. 

And for another positive note, the Vikings have a very good chance of winning more games next season. 

Minnesota Vikings 1-6 Starts Since 1990
YearRecord After 7 GamesFinal RecordFollowing Season
Pro Football Reference

Sorry folks, that's about as positive as I can spin this season—there's probably a whole lot of ugly left in the Vikings this year. At least they can say they were better than the Buccaneers and Jaguars—for at least one more week. 

The teams on the Vikings' remaining schedule have a combined .567 winning percentage, starting with the 4-4 Cowboys. Dallas will most likely be extremely angry after losing to the Detroit Lions with less than 12 seconds left in the game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford led the Lions on an 80-yard touchdown drive in under a minute to win the game 31-30.  

Oct 27, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9)  slides near the goal line during 2nd half of a game at Ford Field. Lions won 31-30. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There has been one bright spot this season for the Vikings—Cordarrelle Patterson. Despite his limited participation on offense, Patterson has filled one of the voids left behind in the Percy Harvin trade.

With his record-setting 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, he tied the Vikings' single-season mark with two returns for a touchdown. It just so happens that Harvin set the record in 2009, his rookie season. 

Kickoff Returns: Patterson vs Harvin
Percy Harvin2009421,15627.51012
Cordarrelle Patterson20131870339.11092
Pro Football Reference

In 2009, Harvin returned a kickoff for his second touchdown of the season in Week 7. Patterson's second comes in Week 8, but with the bye in Week 5, he took just as many games as Harvin did to get his second.

If there is any justice in this world, Patterson will break the record and give people a reason to care about the Vikings.   

Oct 21, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (12) returns a kickoff for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals to start the game but the play was called back on a penalty by the Vikings at the Metrodome. The Vikings

Division Standings

The Detroit Lions kept the pressure on the the Green Bay Packers with their improbable last-second win over the Dallas Cowboys

NFC North Divisional Standings
TeamWinsLossesWeek 9 Opponent
Green Bay Packers52vs. Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions53Bye
Chicago Bears43@ Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings16@ Dallas Cowboys
Pro Football Reference

With a game against the rested but depleted Bears, Green Bay should extend its lead over the idle Lions to a full game. 

A loss for Chicago will drop the Bears firmly into third place. Following the Green Bay game, they will have to play Detroit. No doubt the Lions will be looking to complete the sweep of the Bears in order to keep pace with the Packers.  

Injury Report

Minnesota Vikings Injury Report Week 9
Matt AsiataRunning BackshoulderQuestionable
Desmond BishopLinebackerkneeOn Injured Reserve
Chris CookCornerbackHipProbable
Rhett EllisonTight EndankleQuestionable
Josh FreemanQuarterbackconcussionQuestionable
Jamarca SanfordSafetygroinQuestionable
Rodney SmithWide ReceiverhipQuestionable
Harrison SmithSafetyfootInjured Reserve/Designated for Return
Pro Football Reference

According to head coach Leslie Frazier's press conference on Monday (via the Vikings' official site), Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford were the only injuries from Sunday night's game. 

Chris Cook has kept his record intact of not playing a complete season since being drafted in 2010.
Chris Cook has kept his record intact of not playing a complete season since being drafted in 2010.

Frazier refused to name a starting quarterback for the Dallas game. With three different starters in the last three games, there's no reason to believe that the game of quarterback musical chairs is about to end. 

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Josh Freeman was cleared in the middle of last week to resume practicing, so there's no reason for him not to start. The Vikings want to get a good, long look at Freeman to determine if he has a chance to be the quarterback they need. 

There's little downside if Freeman fails. If he does, it will only help the Vikings get a higher draft pick. 

What Needs to Improve

There are so many areas of the Vikings game in need of improvement that trying to pick them all apart reminds me of my sophomore biology dissection lab—where to start?

Third-Down Defense

Might as well take a stab at the Vikings' biggest problem from the Packers game—third-down defense.

The Packers converted 13-of-18 third downs. On the occasional stop by the defense, the Packers converted on two fourth downs and kicked three field goals.

It was the first game of the season that Green Bay punter Tim Masthay did not have a single punt.

The Vikings are dead last in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage at 51 percent. The league average is 38.4 percent. Of course, the Packers offense is ranked third in the NFL in converting third downs. 

Aaron Rodgers converted 13-of-18 third downs and 2-of-2 fourth downs against the Vikings,
Aaron Rodgers converted 13-of-18 third downs and 2-of-2 fourth downs against the Vikings,

The defense should have a better chance stopping the Cowboys, who are ranked 25th in the league, converting only 35.5 percent of their third downs. Just to point out how bad that is, the Vikings offense is ranked 15th with a 38.3 percent conversion rate. 

If the Vikings defense can come up with one or two stops, it just might help to swing the time of possession a little bit as well, since the Vikings also have the worst time of possession ratio in the NFL.

From NFL.com, Vikings opponents hold onto the ball for an average of 35:08 per game, and that means the Vikings offense is on the field less than any other team, possessing the ball for only 24:52 per game.

If the defense can make a few stops on third down, it will put the offense back on the field. That might mean that Adrian Peterson gets a few more carries. After averaging 23 carries per game the first four weeks, Peterson has averaged only 12 rushes the last three games.

Adrian Peterson: The Number of Carries per Game
GamesAvg CarriesAvg YardsTD
1 - 423105.25
5 - 71250.01

It sure seems that a whole lot of ills can be addressed if the defense can get off the field on third down—at least once in a game.


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