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Zulgad: Vikings have chance to do something special in league filled with flawed teams

The Vikings’ loss Sunday at Carolina ended their eight-game winning streak and served as a reminder that this is a team with flaws. The Vikings, however, weren’t the only team to get this reminder in Week 14.

The New England Patriots also had their eight-game winning streak with a seven-point loss on Monday night in Miami. The Los Angeles Rams missed on an opportunity to get their 10th victory, losing 43-35 against Philadelphia.

The Eagles improved to an NFC-best 11-2 with the win, but suffered a potentially devastating blow in the second half when star quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

A few weeks ago, the assumption was the Eagles might be the biggest roadblock in the Vikings’ quest to become the first team to play host to a Super Bowl. Now, the Eagles are going to have to hope that veteran Nick Foles can pick up where Wentz left off.

So who is the class of the NFC? That is the thing about the conference and the NFL as a whole.

There are quality teams – the Vikings being among them – but there is no team you fear. There is no club you look at and say, “Well, once you get to that club, it’s likely over.”

A list of the tops teams in the NFC right now would include, in no particular order, the Eagles, Vikings (10-3), Saints (9-4), Panthers (9-4), Falcons (8-5), Rams (9-4) and Seahawks (8-5).  If you had to pick a top four it would be Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans and Los Angeles.

The Vikings are on their third choice at quarterback, the Rams have a second-year and non-playoff tested QB in Jared Goff and the Eagles are now forced to turn to their backup. The Saints, who finally seem to have gotten the fact that defense is important, have the best QB situation with soon-to-be 39-year-old Drew Brees leading the way.

The Vikings’ biggest concern is the injury that left tackle Riley Reiff suffered to his left ankle in the third quarter of Sunday’s game. Reiff was forced to leave and the Vikings suddenly had the guy who started at right tackle (Rashod Hill) playing left tackle; rookie fifth-round pick Danny Isidora at left guard; Nick Easton, normally the starting left guard, at center (in place of the injured Pat Elflein); Joe Berger at right guard (his normal spot!); and Jeremiah Sirles, who started for Easton at right guard, at right tackle.

This was the type of offensive line combination – minus T.J. Clemmings, of course – that got the Vikings in so much trouble a year ago. But coach Mike Zimmer indicated on Monday that Reiff’s injury wasn’t as bad as first feared and Elflein is expected back soon from his shoulder injury.

Starting right tackle Mike Remmers, who like Reiff was signed as a free agent this offseason, hasn’t played since the bye week (five games) because of a concussion and now a back problem. The Vikings can win with Hill at right tackle in place of Remmers, but Reiff’s return is essential to their success.

How far could that potential success take them?

The Vikings defense made some uncharacteristic mistakes on Sunday, but it’s unlikely those will be repeated. Zimmer’s defense remains one of the best in the NFL and has the personnel to frustrate foes, provided the group of Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith stay healthy.

Are there concerns about guys like Keenum and kicker Kai Forbath in a playoff game? Absolutely. But there are concerns when it comes to every single team in this league. That includes the Patriots and Steelers and the Vikings wouldn’t even have to think about them until that little Feb. 4 game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

That’s what is going to make the coming weeks so interesting for the Vikings. In the end, the Vikings’ biggest roadblock might be themselves and not their opponents. But if they can stay out of their own way, there’s no reason this team can’t be playing into late January and maybe beyond.

  • Clark Stewart

    With 3 games remaining, this season is really wide open. So many good teams. The Vikings can get to the Super Bowl if they can get a first round bye and stay healthy.

  • Cman

    Gotta get a new Kicker. I don’t trust Forbath with a FG or a PAT. It seems like every time the FG is close 35-45 yards, he either misses, or hits the post. If we are in the playoffs, and it comes down to Forbath kicking a FG to win a game, I’m gonna have a heart attack.

    I’m just tired of having kickers who always makes it interesting when kicking a FG, Pat, and can’t kickoff to the endzone. Get a big leg that can kick accurately.

    • Theguds

      The guy is kicking knuckle balls half the time.

    • badzeitgeist

      I had been hoping we would keep Koehn at the end of pre-season. While not perfect on FGs, he was no worse than Forbath, and had a stronger leg both for FG distance and ensuring kickoffs were not returnable.

      • Cman

        I felt the same. Or was even hoping we would go after Houska when Seattle cut him to sign Walsh. Honestly, I don’t think there would be much of a difference if we still had Walsh. At least he could consistently kick a touchback.

  • Drediock

    At the start of the season Keenum was never the third choice.. Teddy was on IR so really he was the second choice behind Bradford since they had no other body filling the backup position that was higher then Keenum.
    Bradfords out. Teddy is eligible Yet Keenum is still playing thus making him currently their first choice.
    Factually speaking Keenum never dropped below second choice status.
    While you are light years better then Shill Coller. Dont think I wont call your BS factual inaccuracies out too Zulgad.

    That being said. When the Vikes bring their A game and play up to their abilities. there is not a team in the league Id be overly concerned about.

  • Scott Mitchell

    Who wrote this and what have you done with Judd? Just reporting facts, no snarkiness. I know local reporters have to avoid being a homer, but “old” Judd often went in the opposite direction, becoming openly hostile about the local teams. I like and appreciate the effort.

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  • Jack Mancini

    you guys need some kind of online editor, i see so many typos and missing words in your articles. still good reads tho

    • Yvette

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    • mysterygueststar

      Proofreading here AND @ TVA isn’t exactly their best suit. Oh well, c’est la vie. Much stranger things have happened. Now…thanks to the FCC, we’re going to have a LIMITED Internet as well. Barring a damn miracle, that’s going to be the same as everything else is becoming. The more money you have, the more you get. The phrase, “money talks…bulls**t walks” becomes truer every day.

      That said, back to the matter at hand. IF we can get Reiff and Elflien back on the O-line…healthy enough to play their A game, or at least, close to it, Forbath doesn’t shank a playoff 27 yarder with 3 seconds left in the 4th quarter, (Shehawk kicker***hint, hint), AND X is ready to grind w/ ANY wideout in the playoffs…in other words, if our offense, defense & special teams play to their capabilities, AND the zebras DON’T keep gathering in the tunnels discussing the question “HOW can we screw the Vikings this week”?, we are strong enough to take down any opponent that makes it to their 17th game. SKOL Viking Brothers! SKOL VIKINGS!!

  • styx rogan

    as bad and banged up and da queens line is da only thang da queen will do is be 1 n DONE

    • Kevin Hicks

      I’m glad you posted another negative comment because, if the Vikes have ever had a good luck charm, it’s you making asinine statements about the team. Keep up the good work! Skol Styx!!

      • Theguds

        Some say negative others say the man’s just a realist. Short and eloquent, thats just how styx rolls. Skol styx

        • mysterygueststar

          [b]~~~”as bad and banged up and da queens line is da only thang da queen will do is be 1 n DONE”[/b]

    • Chris Mahoney

      ??? What the fuck are you talking about?

  • danielrabas

    Good article, this is the the magic of Christmas in the work… And yes, bye week must be the goal and then fully healed team ready to rock…

  • brian199511

    Run the score up on Cincy, then put backups in including Bridgewater to see if he can actually play. Winning home field advantage through the Super Bowl would be huge.

  • Bob T.

    This article made me want to scout O-lineman for rounds 3 and 4.





vikings

Previous Story Vikings waive safety Tocho to add rookie offensive tackle to the practice squad Next Story Aaron Rodgers says he’s been medically cleared to return