The Minnesota Vikings are somewhat in uncharted territory. At the halfway point of their season, not only are they above.500 but they’ve put themselves into playoff contention.
The Vikings improved to 6-2 on the season after a 21-18 win over the St. Louis Rams. That, coupled with Green Bay’s loss at Carolina, put the Vikings and Packers in a dead heat in the NFC North. The two teams meet in two weeks at TCF Bank Stadium.READ MORE: Vaccine Doubts Fuel Dr. Scott Jensen's Rise In Minnesota Governor Race
Leading up to that pivotal match-up, the Vikings travel to Oakland this week to face the Raiders and Green Bay hosts Detroit in a big divisional game for the Packers.
After finishing 7-9 last season, the Vikings are already one win away from that total with eight games left. The remaining schedule is among the toughest in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean they can’t keep the momentum going. Here are four reasons why the Vikings are a playoff team, and why they can’t be ruled out to win the NFC North.
Teddy Bridgewater Continuing To Improve
If Teddy Bridgewater can stay healthy, he can be a key reason why the Vikings will make the playoffs. He finished Sunday 13-21 for 144 yards and an interception before being knocked out of the game with a concussion. He has a few tests to pass this week but is expected to play. It helps having Adrian Peterson to give the ball to, but for the season Bridgewater is passing for about 20 yards per game with six touchdowns. He’s also completing nearly 65 percent of his passes. His ability to stay poised under pressure with defenses bearing down on him will go a long way in leading the Vikings to the playoffs.
Different Receivers Stepping UpREAD MORE: 'Perfect Timing To Go': MEA Marking One Of The Busiest Travel Weekends Of The Fall
Teddy Bridgewater is spreading the football around the field as more receivers continue to help him keep the Vikings offense balanced. Stefon Diggs has emerged in his rookie season as the team’s leading receiver. He is also one of three receiver with at least 20 catches on the season as Mike Wallace has 27 with one touchdown and Kyle Rudolph ha 22 with three touchdowns. Diggs also has two touchdowns on the season. Six players have at least 10 catches on the season, so Bridgewater isn’t afraid to find different players and move the ball down field. That balance will make the Vikings’ offense, along with Peterson in the backfield, tough to stop the rest of the season.
Blair Walsh Has 2 Straight Game-Winning Kicks
Blair Walsh was inconsistent to start the season after signing a contract extension in the offseason. Vikings fans were worried, but Walsh has been on fire lately. Walsh made a 34-yard field goal Sunday to open the scoring, then won the game in overtime with a 40-yard field goal that split the uprights. He tied a team record with game-winning field goals in two straight games and has made 15 straight field goals. Good special teams play and a reliable kicker are as important as anything when it comes to making the playoffs. Walsh is making important kicks, and his kickoffs are largely touchbacks. That gives opposing offenses a long way to go to score points.
Vikings Defense Making Plays At Key Moments
Eric Kendricks missed Sunday’s game due to injury, and all Chad Greenway did was play every defensive snap in his absence. Greenway had 10 tackles, eight solo, in his best game of the season. He also had a tackle for a loss in the victory. Linval Joseph also had a huge game on the defensive line with 10 tackles and a sack. Harrison Smith leads the Vikings with 44 tackles on the season, with Kendricks and Anthony Barr following at 42 and 41, respectively. Numbers wise they aren’t great among the NFL’s top defenses, but they are making plays when needed to get victories.MORE NEWS: A Ride-Along With Minneapolis Police Shows How Staffing Shortages Have Officers Stretched Thin
The Vikings are 6-2 and not all the wins have been pretty, that doesn’t matter in the long run. What does matter is that they’re trending towards making their first playoff appearance since 2012. We’re only halfway there and a lot can still happen, but you want to be playing relevant football in November and December. The expectations are higher, but that’s a good place to start.