Minnesota Vikings: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 14

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Minnesota Vikings: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 14
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Adrian Peterson finds himself in a familiar position—leading the NFL in rushing yards.

The Minnesota Vikings game against the Chicago Bears was quite a roller-coaster ride—not necessarily the best thing after all the feasting following the Thanksgiving holiday. In a game that both teams had a chance to win, the Vikings came out on top in perhaps one of the wildest games ever played in the Metrodome.

The Vikings won behind 211 rushing yards from running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson went over 10,000 yards in his career. As Michael David Smith from Pro Football Talk points out, Peterson is in exclusive company. 

Peterson enters Week 14 as the NFL's leading rusher with 1,208 yards. His average of 100.7 yards per game also leads the NFL.

It all came against the worst run defense in the NFL. Things will get a whole lot tougher this week when the Vikings travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens

Even though the Ravens have the same 6-6 record as the Bears, these two teams are not that close. The Bears on the road are as bad as the Ravens are dominant at home.

The Vikings' offense will have a more difficult time running the ball and scoring points.

Playing the Birds at Their Place is Worse than a Bear at Home
Defense Record Rush Yd/G Points per Game
Bears on the Road 2-4 191.8 32.2
Ravens at Home 5-1 98.8 12.3

Pro Football Reference

The Ravens' only home loss came in Week 6 against the Green Bay Packers. In that game, running back Eddie Lacy rushed for 120 yards on 23 carries. While Peterson is more than capable of replicating that performance, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 315 yards on 17-of-32 passing.

The Vikings probably won't get that kind of performance from any one of their quarterbacks.

 

Division Standings

The records in the NFC North appear to be close. They're not.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
All's well in Detroit with the Lions leading the division.

 

With a season sweep over the Bears, Detroit has a two-game lead over Chicago. With a 4-1 division record and a 6-3 conference record, the Lions are in complete control of the division.

NFC North Division Standings
Team Wins Losses Ties Div Con. Week 14 Opponent
Detroit Lions 7 5 0 4-1 6-3 @ Eagles (7-5)
Chicago Bears 6 6 0 2-3 3-6 vs. Cowboys (7-5)
Green Bay Packers 5 6 1 2-2-1 3-5-1 vs. Falcons (3-9)
Minnesota Vikings 3 8 1 1-3-1 2-7-1 @ Ravens (6-6)

NFL.com

After their 40-10 loss to Detroit, the Packers have gotten a taste of what the rest of the division has experienced—that without a franchise quarterback it's difficult to win in the NFL.

Green Bay Packers Quarterbacks Since 1992
Quarterback Years Wins Losses Ties Win %
Don Majkowski 1992 1 2 0 0.333
Brett Favre 1992 - 2007 160 93 0 0.632
Aaron Rodgers 2008 - 2013 57 29 0 0.662
Matt Flynn 2010 - 2011, 2013 1 2 0 0.333
Scott Tolzien 2013 0 1 1 0.000
Seneca Wallace 2013 0 1 0 0.000

Pro Football Reference

Behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers had won four straight games to lead the division after Week 8 with a 5-2 record. Then Rodgers went down after two passes against the Bears, and the Packers have gone five weeks without a win.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

Injury Report

Minnesota Vikings Injury Report Week 14
Player Pos. Injury Status
Matt Asiata RB Shoulder Probable
Desmond Bishop LB Knee Injured Reserve
Greg Childs WR Knee PUP
Fred Evans DT Knee Probable
Chad Greenway LB Wrist Probable
Erin Henderson LB Personal Questionable
Zach Line FB Knee Injured Reserve
Adrian Peterson RB Groin Probable
Christian Ponder QB Concussion Questionable
Josh Robinson CB Chest Questionable
Kyle Rudolph TE Foot Out
Harrison Smith S Foot Out

Pro Football Reference / Vikings.com

The only injury the Vikings suffered against the Bears on Sunday was a concussion to starting quarterback Christian Ponder. It knocked him out of the game late in the first half. He completed only three of eight passes for 40 yards and was sacked three times for a loss of 24 yards.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Matt Cassel took over for Ponder and led the Vikings to 16 second-half points for the overtime win. He finished 20-of-33 for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It was the second-most passing yards on the season for the Vikings.

Even though he was active for the game, linebacker Erin Henderson did not play a single snap against the Bears. Henderson missed the game against the Packers for personal reasons. It was revealed that Henderson has been arrested for a DWI on November 19—two days after the game against the Seahawks.

An article from Chris Tomasson in the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that head coach Leslie Frazier has been impressed with the way that second-year linebacker Audie Cole has played the last two games in place of Henderson. There is no indication of when Henderson will return to the starting lineup. 

 

What Needs to Improve

What needs to improve for the Minnesota Vikings still comes down to the defense. The offense has done enough to win several games this season, but the defense was not able to come up with stops. 

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Rankings
Category Result Ranking
Total yards per game 407.6 30th
Rushing yards per game 120.8 23rd
Passing yards per game 286.8 30th
Passing touchdowns allowed 26 32nd
Sacks 28 23rd
Points allowed per game 30.5 32nd
Time of possession 33:45 31st

NFL.com / Stat Milk / Pro Football Reference

Over the first eight games, the Vikings allowed an average of 31.5 points per game. They were 1-7 in those games. 

Over the last four games, the defense has decreased that to 28.5 points per game—and that includes the 41-20 drubbing by the Seahawks in Week 11. The Vikings are 2-1-1 the last four weeks. 

It's not much, but in a lost season like this one, you have to grasp for every positive scrap you can find.

The defense has played slightly better against the pass the last four games, but it seems to have come at the expense of stopping the run.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Xavier Rhodes has come up with some big plays on defense.

One bright spot on defense the past two weeks has been the play of rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes has broken up a couple of passes in the end zone the last two games to prevent a touchdown. 

On Sunday, he limited wide receiver Brandon Marshall to only four catches for 45 yards. But on the other side of the field, Chicago wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey caught 12 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. 

Minnesota Vikings Defense
Period Pass Yds/Game Rush Yds/Game Scoring
First 8 games 291.1 104.0 31.5
Last 4 games 278.8 153.8 28.5

Pro Football Reference

The defense will need to play better if the Vikings are to win another game this season. The combined record of their remaining opponents is 28-20, a .583 winning percentage. All four are in the hunt for the playoffs, with three of them—Eagles, Bengals and Lions—leading their respective divisions.

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