“Off the Matt” 2016 Vikings Preview

After scratching out 12 combined wins in their previous two seasons, the Vikings were one of the biggest surprise stories in the NFL in 2015 winning 11 games en-route to an NFC North crown.  For the sanity of Vikings fans, I don’t think we have to rehash how the season ended.  The future is bright, expectations are higher than ever with Teddy Bridgewater having another year under his belt and the entire starting defensive unit returning.

Offense

Who is the most important player to the Vikings offense?  The automatic answer is Adrian Peterson, and I would agree he is the fuel that makes the offense go.  However, Teddy Bridgewater is the difference between this team going home Wild Card Weekend and making a serious run at a Super Bowl.

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The Vikings lost six games last year including their playoff loss.  In those six games Adrian Peterson posted the following rushing numbers:

Week 1: @ 49ers – 10 carries 31 yardsap

Week 4: @ Broncos – 16 carries 81 yards

Week 11: vs. Packers – 13 carries 45 yards

Week 13: vs. Seahawks – 8 carries 18 yards

Week 14: @ Cardinals – 23 carries 69 yards

Wild Card: vs. Seahawks – 23 carries 45 yards

 

The people who think Peterson is the most important person to the offense will point at those numbers and say, “You see, when Peterson doesn’t produce, we don’t win.”  I look at those numbers and say when defenses are able to hold Peterson down, Bridgewater has failed to step up and lead the team to victory.  He did play a great game in Week 14 against the Cardinals, but that performance was tainted by taking a sack in field goal range, inside of 10 seconds left with zero timeouts remaining.

Bridgewater’s supporters will point to his 65.3% completion rate and nine interceptions and say that he is a game manager and does what is asked of him within the scheme of the offense.  The quarterback who get the title of a “game manager” thrown around about them more than anyone else is the Chiefs Alex Smith.

Let’s do a quick comparison using 2015 statistics.

Bridgewater: 292/447/3231 – – 14 touchdowns/9 interceptions – – 65.3% completion rate

Alex Smith: 307/470/3486 – – 20 touchdowns/ 7 interceptions – – 65.3 completion rate

tbasSo how did Bridgewater stack up against the poster-boy of game managing quarterbacks?  Smith outgunned him in yards, yards per attempt, yards per completion, threw more touchdowns, and less interceptions.  Smith also chipped in 300 more yards on the ground than what Bridgewater was able to contribute.  Bridgewater is only 23 years old, I don’t think his endgame is going to be a game managing quarterback.  With the current construction of his team being a game manager might be all that they need from him.  However, he needs to step up his game if he wants to meet the gold standard in game managing.

One area that Bridgewater and Smith finished with identical numbers was completion percentage.  However, it isn’t hard to see how they ended up there.  Average Depth of Throw (aDOT) is a metric that tracks how far the ball travels in the air before it is completed, incomplete, or intercepted.  Of the 36 quarterbacks who attempted enough passes to qualify, Bridgewater ranked 33 with an aDOT of 7.4.  Alex Smith was right behind him at 34 with an aDOT of 7.0.  Completing 65% of one’s passes loses some of its shine when on average the ball is only being thrown seven yards downfield.

This is my biggest problem with Teddy.  He needs to take more shots down the field.  Last year, he only attempted 13 passes that traveled more than 30 yards in the air.  Forget that he only completed two, that isn’t important in the big picture of the offense.  Attempting more deep passes would loosen up the defense and possibly keep that eighth defender out of the box, which would create more running lanes for Peterson.

There is going to be a shiny, new toy in the offensive huddle this year in the form of first round pick Laquon Treadwell.  I am not a violent man, but I am about to slap the next person I hear say something about his inability to produce at the NFL level because of his “slow” 4.63 40-yard dash.  Treadwell is the perfect fit for this offense.  With the number of short routes and contested catches Vikings receivers are tasked with catching, Treadwell should thrive.  His ability to win 50-50 balls and create after the catch will make him a valuable piece in the Minnesota passing game.  The fact that he is one of the most tenacious blocking receivers to come out of college doesn’t hurt either.  I am hearing some Dez Bryant comparisons, but I see some Anquan Boldin in him as well.

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That isn’t some scrub he goes by and then up and over on.  Cyrus Jones was a second round pick by the Patriots.

Defense

The defense returns its entire starting unit.  They have talent and depth at all three levels as well as one of the best defensive minds in the game in head coach Mike Zimmer.  While it won’t be easy to improve on the 18.9 points per game allowed, (5th best in league) they have the right ingredients to do so.

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Upfront Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd comprise a nasty defensive tackle tandem.  They do a great job of blowing up plays in the backfield.  Even when they aren’t directly in on the play, their influence can be felt.  Often times, their quick penetration forces help which frees up Brian Robison and Everson Griffin.  Griffin finished the year with 10.5 sacks and is likely to have another double digit sack season.  Danielle Hunter will be another name to keep an eye on.  As a rookie he picked up six sacks.  With more experience and becoming technically sound he could also be a threat for double digit sacks.

abIf you don’t know his name yet, you will soon enough.  Anthony Barr is quickly rising up the ranks and should be in the discussion when talking about the best linebackers in the league.  Last season, he was the only linebacker in the league to grade above 85 using PFF metrics against the run, rushing the passer, and in pass coverage.  He is incredibly versatile, and at only 24 years old his best football is still ahead of him.  Fellow UCLA Bruin, Eric Kendricks had a strong rookie season leading the team in tackles despite missing two games.  It seems the linebacker position is in good hands for years to come.

Pro-Bowler Harrison Smith leads the secondary.  It should read “two time pro-bowler” but that is a different story for a different day.  Smith is surgical in his diagnosis of plays and reacts quickly to what the offense does.  He has elite ball skills and is the biggest play-maker in the Vikings secondary.

X-Factor

Having the best kick return man in the league in Cordarrelle Patterson is a nice luxury.  His return average of 30.1 yards is the best in the league and only a half-yard behind Gale Sayers for the best average in league history.  For an offense that doesn’t have a ton of pop, having good starting field position helps out.

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Fantasy

In previous articles, I have used this section to group players into being either over or undervalued based on their average draft position (standard scoring).  I am usually able to make a case for certain players, but the current values of Vikings players seem to be a fair market price.

Adrian Peterson (ADP: 7)

ap1There is an old saying in fantasy football.

You can’t win your league in the first round, but you can lose it.

Wait, maybe that is a PGA Tour saying.  Oh well whatever, it fits.

Keeping that in mind, even at age 31 Peterson should be considered the safest running back on the board.  In the seven seasons that he has played 14+ games, he has produced 1200+ yards and double digit touchdowns in each season.

Stefon Diggs (ADP: 111)

Diggs is currently the 42nd receiver coming off the board.  Round 10 (12 team league) feels a bit low for a guy who is coming off a rookie season in which he posted 52/720/4…in 13 games.  Then again, he plays in a run-heavy offense, failed to surpass 50 yards receiving in six of his final seven games, and will be competing with Treadwell for targets.  I guess his ADP is about right.  I could see myself taking a shot on him if he still on the board in Round 10, just in case the Vikings decide to open it up and Teddy starts going downfield.

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej GarrCorey D Roberts, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday July 16th from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #64 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. This is a live broadcast and we take callers at 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the hosts. This week we will break down the NFC North from an NFL and fantasy perspective.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio: Join Corey D RobertsKyle Amore, and Coach Andy Macuga live on Sunday July 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #73 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host.

Kyle is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Andy is the Head Baseball Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California as well as a 4 year veteran in MLFB leagues.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”



Categories: Fantasy Football, Football Writers, Major League Fantasy Sports, MLFS Authors, NFC North, NFL Team by Team Analysis

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