After Sam Bradford and the rest of the Vikings offense absolutely decimated the Saints defense on Monday Night during week 1 of the season, a lot of people said that “we” as fans or writers shouldn’t rush to judgement as the team beat up on a bad defense/team and that’s what they were supposed to do. I have a feeling that we’ll be hearing more of the same this week as the Vikings absolutely mopped the floor with the extremely beat up defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday. While yes, both the Saints and Bucs weren’t great or even good, the Vikings did show something that the league is starting to take notice of and that’s that they’re absolutely stacked on offense and have multiple weapons that can all basically decimate another team if they don’t come ready to play. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both #3 and #2 in terms of receiving yards (respectively) in the entire NFL and that’s after a couple drops by Diggs and a back-up quarterback for two of the three games played. That’s astounding. Really, if you look at this offense on paper it’s going to be extremely hard for opposing defenses to completely shut them down this season because they have so many weapons and it has to make you excited for the prospects they have as the season continues and they receive some additional help from players returning from injury (Sam Bradford) or suspension (Michael Floyd).
Beyond Thielen and Diggs, the Vikes have receivers like Laquon Treadwell who is fighting to make a name for himself on this offense (but has shown flashes this pre-season), Jarius Wright who always comes through when his number is called (and had a TD yesterday) and one of the better receiving tight ends in the league in Kyle Rudolph who had over 80 grabs in 2016 and is one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets (especially in the end-zone). Through the air, also, new Vikings running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray both can snag passes and it was reported during the game yesterday that Cook caught 50 balls before the game to help cure him off a case of the dropsies (something he had been dealing with in practice this week). It paid off as he rushed for 97 yards on 27 attempts, while adding another 72 yards through the air on 5 catches. Cook is besting even Adrian Peterson when compared to Peterson’s first three games as a Viking, with less carries and more yards while averaging 4.7 yards per carry through the three (while AP averaged 4.2). Cook has been so good that he’s even taken away a lot of the goal line opportunities than people thought that Murray would get before the season began, and really he’s showing a lot of those who drafted him in fantasy football that they made the right move in doing so. My guess is that he’ll end the season as a top 5 fantasy RB (if he stays healthy), not solely because he gets a ton of touches but also because of his next level vision and hips. He’s definitely the right pick over Joe Mixon (if people recall I really wanted Mixon before the draft) and
Cook has been so good that he’s even taken away a lot of the goal line opportunities than people thought that Murray would get before the season began, and really he’s showing a lot of those who drafted him in fantasy football that they made the right move in doing so. My guess is that he’ll end the season as a top 5 fantasy RB (if he stays healthy), not solely because he gets a ton of touches but also because of his next level vision and hips. He’s definitely the right pick over Joe Mixon (if people recall I really wanted Mixon before the draft) and show that Spielman has really put a great team on the field.
Beyond Spielman, someone else who deserves a lot of credit for the Vikings performance yesterday (and really so far this season) has been Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. If you’ve listened to the purpleJOURNAL Podcast you’d known that co-host of that show Luke Braun wasn’t the biggest fan of Shurmur this off-season, mainly disliking how conservative he’s been in his career (and was in 2016). However, as Braun has admitted, he called a “Hell of a game” against the Saints on Monday Night and really seemed to air it out against the Bucs as well, something I’m sure Braun will be a fan of when we re-convene on Thursday morning. Perhaps he’s coming out of his shell a bit because he realize’s that very few teams can cover all of the weapons this Vikings offense does have. Granted, they did have a down day in Pittsburgh last Sunday, but chalk that up to timing issues with Keenum and a ton of penalties on both sides of the ball. Outside of that, though, this Vikings offense has shown twice now that if a defense doesn’t come to play that they will get embarrassed, especially at home at US Bank Stadium.
Not many people knew what to make of this Vikings team before the season started. We saw flashes of brilliance last season before everything fell apart and knew that on-paper at least, it could be a great defense. But, there were a lot of new faces on the offensive line and in the backfield so people really thought that this was going to be a Vikings team that won because of its defense. In 2016, at least at the start of it, really if the Vikings offense could clear 20 points then they’d win because the defense definitely wasn’t going to give up over 20. Now, it’s looking like this Vikings team is going to win because of its offense, and while people will say that it was against two bad or injured defenses, or badly injured defenses, the fact is the Vikings are going to play more than a couple of those this season. So, with the NFC not being as strong perhaps as it has been in season’s past and both Sam Bradford and Michael Floyd set to return in the next couple weeks… Truly, the sky could still be the limit for this Vikings team. I for one, am excited.
Certainly, last year’s first overall pick in Laquon Treadwell hasn’t shown much thus far in his career and while he had a good pre-season (as mentioned above), he has been mostly absent through three games. Granted, when you’re playing behind two receivers who are both in the top three for receiving yards (and one that’s leading in TD receptions) there’s not a lot of opportunities to go around, especially when your running back is hauling in a few touches per game as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the league reacts to the Diggs/Thielen combo in coming games and if that either opens up opportunities for Treadwell or the returning Michael Floyd who has kept his name out of the papers during his suspension (thank god), or even Kyle Rudolph who seems to be the focus of the defense (again especially in the red-zone). While both Diggs and Thielen have been great at getting open down the field, Thielen isn’t necessarily known for his yards after the catch ability (in-fact, by some estimates he’s the worst in the NFL at that particular stat). Adding a big, strong and physical receiver like Michael Floyd to the top passing attack in the NFL (there, I said it) could propel this offense to heights it hasn’t seen since the Moss and Culpepper days (if it isn’t there already) and as someone who loves wide receiver play and knows how far it can take a team, I’m so damn excited about Floyd’s return and really the future of this team. Those three guys (Diggs, Thielen and Floyd) are all under 28 years old and Bradford is also 29. That, combined with their defense could mean that this team could be the class of the NFC North for the next couple seasons (barring injuries, of course). Toss in a rookie running back who is breaking AP’s records and… Wowzers.
So, while I dismissed this a bit earlier the Vikings have beat up on two bad defenses while getting decimated by a great defense in the Steelers. So, next week’s home game against the Detroit Lions will give us a good idea on where this team (and offense) stand and what we should expect for the division and playoffs (especially if Sam Bradford returns). This Vikings team has one of the better defensive lines in the league and when the offense forces the opposing offense to throw the ball on nearly every down (as the Bucs did yesterday), especially at home, the defensive line can tee up and do exactly what they want to do and they end up getting both sacks and turnovers like they did against Jameis Winston Sunday. Considering that the Lions should be 3-0 (they were robbed on that last play), it should show whether this offense can play at a high level against a decent defense and whether or not this defense is for real. Either way, even if Keenum plays I’m a lot more confident than I was before yesterday’s game and as soon as Bradford returns I feel like this is probably a top 5 offense in the league with eyes on the top 3. Who would’ve guessed that’d be the case (besides me) last month?