By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings had a better than expected September. Head coach Leslie Frazier mentioned during the practices leading up to the victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday that teams will begin to separate themselves as playoff contenders from those that are pretenders.
For the Vikings, the second quarter of the season includes four games in 19 days, which began Sunday and runs through a Thursday contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25. The four games also include games against three teams below .500; the Titans, Buccaneers and Washington Redskins.
First Thursday game
The last time the Vikings played a Thursday night game was the season opener in 2009, a loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. Brett Favre began his second and final season as the Vikings quarterback.
Prior to that, the Vikings played on Thursday just once since the beginning of the 2006 season.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced before this season that every team would play at least one prime time game (Sunday night, Monday or Thursday). While the prestige is still playing on Monday night, the prime time games were the expected best games of the week.
It may not carry the same honor it once did, but playing on Thursday night allows a team to showcase itself to the national audience.
Percy Harvin for MVP?
The question has been raised, and rightfully so. There is not a player in the NFL that can do as much for his team as Harvin. The former first round draft pick is tied for second in the NFL in receptions, 11th in targets, 11th in receiving yards, first in yards after the catch and tied for ninth in first down catches. He also contributes as a rusher and kick returner. He leads the league in kick return average at 38.3 yards per return and has a return for a touchdown. No other running back or wide receiver commands the attention of the defense as much as Harvin.
Game to Watch
Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Vikings and Cardinals are two of the biggest surprises in the NFL. Neither team was expected to contend for a division title, and yet here they are tied atop their respective divisions at 4-1. Both teams are succeeding with defense and timely offense. The two defenses are the fifth and sixth best scoring defense at 15.6 (Cardinals) and 15.8 (Vikings) points per game, respectively. The difference could be the offenses. The Vikings rank 14th in the league in scoring offense at 24 points per game and the Cardinals are tied for 24th at 18.8 points per game.
Player on the hot seat
TE John Carlson
The biggest splash the Vikings made in the offseason was signing the Litchfield native and former Seattle Seahawk. He entered the 2012 season with 137 catches, 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns in five seasons with the Seahawks. The Vikings brought him in to create matchup problems for defenses. However, Carlson missed all of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury and hurt his knee in training camp in August. So far this season he has just two catches for 1 yard and has been targeted four times.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.