Minnesota Vikings: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 10

Tim Arcand@@TArcandCorrespondent INovember 5, 2013

The Minnesota Vikings let another win slip away in the last minute of the game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Minnesota Vikings let another win slip away in the last minute of the game against the Dallas Cowboys.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The good thing about the Minnesota Vikings' loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday was that it came in a short week and there won't be as much time to dwell upon it.

The Vikings need to quickly put together a game plan for the Washington Redskins (3-5), who they host on Thursday night. 

This is the fourth consecutive season the Vikings and Redskins have met.
This is the fourth consecutive season the Vikings and Redskins have met.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

I'd like to think that facing a team with a losing record might provide some hope for a victory, but that certainly hasn't been the case for Minnesota. The Vikings are 1-3 when facing teams with a record below .500, including blowout losses to the Panthers and Giants

At least against the Cowboys, the Vikings were back in the mode of hanging on until the last minute of the game. In his press conference on Monday, head coach Leslie Frazier praised his team for not giving up and battling until the end.

Surprisingly in the loss, the Vikings' team stats actually improved in most categories. Yes, I am really digging deep to find anything with a positive spin.

By holding the Cowboys to only 36 rushing yards, the Vikings dropped their defensive average against the rush by almost 10 yards per game and improved their ranking form 21st to 12th in the NFL.

The only category they did not improve on defensively was in passing yards allowed. With Tony Romo throwing for 337 yards on Sunday, the Vikings' average in passing yards allowed increased by three yards per game. 

Division Standings

Nothing can be taken for granted when the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears play each other. In the longest-running rivalry in the NFL, this one looked like an easy win for the Packers, especially considering that they were facing the Bears without starting quarterback Jay Cutler

The football gods, however, decided to even things out when Aaron Rodgers suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter. 

 It became the battle of backups, with Seneca Wallace facing off against Josh McCown.

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 04: Shea McClellin #99 of the Chicago Bears tackles Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Lambeau Field on November 04, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Heading into Monday night's game it seemed liked the Packers were in a very good position to establish themselves as the best team in the division. After opening the season at 1-2, the Packers had won four straight. A win over the Bears would have had them sitting atop the division with wins over each of their NFC North rivals.

Instead, the Bears' 27-20 win over the Packers created a three-way tie with the Lions for the division lead, as all three teams own a 2-1 record within the NFC North. It also leaves a huge gap between the Vikings and the rest of the division and really accentuates how poorly the Vikings have played this season.    

Injury Report

The Vikings lost more than the game against the Cowboys. They also lost their Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph for as long as four weeks with a broken foot. The injury occurred on his 31-yard touchdown catch, which was his third touchdown of the season to lead the Vikings. 

NFC North Division Standings
TeamWinsLossesWeek 10 Opponent
Chicago Bears53vs. Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions53@ Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers53vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings17vs. Washington Redskins
Pro Football Reference

Meanwhile, right tackle Phil Loadholt suffered a concussion against Dallas, so it's unlikely that he will be cleared in time for Thursday's game against the Redskins. 

Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) breaks a tackle of Dallas Cowboys free safety Barry Church (42) and defensive back Jeff Heath (38) and runs for a touchdown in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cow
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Vikings were without three-fourths of their starting defensive backfield. After losing Harrison Smith earlier this season, the defense was without safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback Chris Cook.

Minnesota Vikings: Week 10 Injury Report
Matt AsiataRBshoulderQuestionable
Chris CookCBhipQuestionable
Rhett EllisonTEankleQuestionable
Fred EvansNTkneeQuestionable
Phil LoadholtRTconcussionDoubtful
Kyle RudolphTEfootOut for Thursday
Jamarca SanfordSgroinQuestionable
Pro Football Reference

 The backups filled in admirably, giving up the game-winning touchdown in the final minute—the same manner in which Cook did against the Bears in Week 2 and Smith did against the Browns in Week 3.    

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Martellus Bennett #83 of the Chicago Bears catches the game winning touchdown as Chris Cook #20 of the Minnesota Vikings tries to defend him on September 15, 2013 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Bears defeate
David Banks/Getty Images

What Needs to Improve

The Vikings played much better on Sunday than they had previously against the Packers, especially on third down where the Cowboys converted only 5-of-14 third downs. 

Unfortunately, on the Cowboys' final drive, they never even had to convert a third down, marching 90 yards on nine plays in 2:09 and facing only four second downs. 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 22: Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Jordan Cameron #84 of the Cleveland Browns after Cameron made a catch for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game on September 22, 2013 at Mall of America Field
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With three losses coming in the final minute of their games, the Minnesota defense needs to find a way to come up with a big play when it needs it the most.

Against Pittsburgh in Week 4, the Steelers were on the Vikings' 6-yard line with 0:19 left, It took a sack, a Ben Roethlisberger fumble and a fumble recovery to secure the only win of the season for Minnesota. 

With its defensive backfield depleted, the rest of Minnesota's defense needs to step up and help pick up some of the slack. Linebacker Chad Greenway, defensive end Kevin Williams and defensive end Jared Allen need to improve their play. 

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 3:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is grabbed from behind by Marcus Sherels #35 of the Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 27-23.  (Photo by Wesley Hit
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Sure, Allen is leading the team with 4.5 sacks, but on a pace for only nine this season. That would be the fewest number of sacks that Allen has had in a season since 2006—his third year in the league with the Chiefs.  

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 04: Jared Allen #69 of the Minnesota Vikings takes the field with Chad Greenway #52 of the Minnesota Vikings and D'Aundre Reed #91 of the Minnesota Vikings before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Greenway has been the Vikings' leading tackler in each of the last five seasons, averaging 132 tackles. While he's on pace for another 100-plus tackles this season, he needs to come up with some impact plays that swing the momentum to the Vikings. 

There's no chance that Minnesota's defensive backfield is going to suddenly play any better, so the rest of the Vikings defense needs to pick up its game.


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