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

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2013

Adrian Peterson finds himself in a familiar position—leading the NFL in rushing yards.
Adrian Peterson finds himself in a familiar position—leading the NFL in rushing yards.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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
DefenseRecordRush Yd/GPoints per Game
Bears on the Road2-4191.832.2
Ravens at Home5-198.812.3
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.

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

 

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
TeamWinsLossesTiesDivCon.Week 14 Opponent
Detroit Lions7504-16-3@ Eagles (7-5)
Chicago Bears6602-33-6vs. Cowboys (7-5)
Green Bay Packers5612-2-13-5-1vs. Falcons (3-9)
Minnesota Vikings3811-3-12-7-1@ 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
QuarterbackYearsWinsLossesTiesWin %
Don Majkowski19921200.333
Brett Favre1992 - 20071609300.632
Aaron Rodgers2008 - 2013572900.662
Matt Flynn2010 - 2011, 20131200.333
Scott Tolzien20130110.000
Seneca Wallace20130100.000
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.

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 24:  Matt Flynn #10 of the Green Bay Packers is sacked by Chad Greenway #52 of the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on November 24, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Vikings and the Packers tied 26-26 after overtime.  (Photo by
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

Injury Report

Minnesota Vikings Injury Report Week 14
PlayerPos.InjuryStatus
Matt AsiataRBShoulderProbable
Desmond BishopLBKneeInjured Reserve
Greg ChildsWRKneePUP
Fred EvansDTKneeProbable
Chad GreenwayLBWristProbable
Erin HendersonLBPersonalQuestionable
Zach LineFBKneeInjured Reserve
Adrian PetersonRBGroinProbable
Christian PonderQBConcussionQuestionable
Josh RobinsonCBChestQuestionable
Kyle RudolphTEFootOut
Harrison SmithSFootOut
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.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings is sacked by Shea McClellin #99 of the Chicago Bears during the first quarter of the game on December 1, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnea
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
CategoryResultRanking
Total yards per game407.630th
Rushing yards per game120.823rd
Passing yards per game286.830th
Passing touchdowns allowed2632nd
Sacks2823rd
Points allowed per game30.532nd
Time of possession33:4531st
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.

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

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
PeriodPass Yds/GameRush Yds/GameScoring
First 8 games291.1104.031.5
Last 4 games278.8153.828.5
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.