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We release three Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs a week, one on Tuesday (Minnesota Vikings related), one on Thursday (Minnesota Wild related), and one on Friday (Minnesota Timberwolves related).
In this weeks edition, Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland asks Vikings analyst Mike Coenen about the teams loss to the Bears, the NFC North, and more.
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So now what do you think of the Bears?
I was skeptical, but the Bears appear to be a legitimate playoff team. While they are not an elite team the likes of the Rams and Saints, they are a solid 10-6 or 11-5 caliber club.
I realize that through the magic of free agency an NFL team can now literally go from cellar dweller to division champion from one year to the next, but last year’s 5-11 record made me doubt the Bears despite the good start.
Their defense is most impressive. Although no one will mistake them for the ’85 Bears, the Khalil Mack acquisition has solidified the defense and made them into one of the better units in the league. Like the Vikings, the Bears won’t be able to compete with the likes of the Rams and Saints come playoff time, but they are definitely a team on the rise, and just might be one of the elite teams in a couple years.
Are Kirk Cousins’ turnovers starting to concern you?
Kirk Cousins does make some critical mistakes at inopportune times. As I’ve mentioned in previous weeks, his numbers are solid. But a lot of games have those critical moments when they are sometimes won or lost. Kirk Cousins is not stepping up in those moments and getting it done. Instead, he’s making critical mistakes that are costing his team games.
Both the Vikings offense and defense seemed outplayed for most of the game. What was wrong with each of them?
The Vikings simply got outplayed on both sides of the ball on Sunday night. No doubt about it.
However, I do not believe that the Bears are really that much better than the Vikings. They are two evenly matched teams, one just happened to get dominated by the other. It happens. When they play in Minnesota later in the season, the roles could very likely be reversed. This time, though, they got outplayed, bottom line.
What is your current assessment of the NFC North? If the Lions (who upset the Panthers this week...) beat the Bears and the Packers beat the Vikings this coming week, the division begins looking a little interesting...
The NFC North is bogged down in mediocrity this season. I definitely think it’s the Bears division to lose at this point, with the Vikings as the only team that might be able to catch them.
The Lions had a nice win on Sunday against the Panthers, but their defensive woes will keep them from rising above .500, which is the same problem the Packers face. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the league’s top three quarterbacks, but the Packer defense is terrible. The Packers have had two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game at the helm for the past 26 seasons (1992-2018) with Favre and Rodgers, and they’ve managed only two Super Bowl wins in that time.
I know that it’s two more than the Vikings have, and my answer has veered off track a bit, but it is pretty significant that the Packers have so little to show for the past 26 seasons with two consecutive quarterbacks who could both be legitimately ranked in the top 5 of all-time. That said, the Packers won’t make the playoffs for the second straight year.
Do you think any team in the North that doesn’t win the division will make the playoffs?
If the season ended today, the Vikings would be the second wildcard team in the NFC along with Carolina. So yeah, I definitely think the second place team in the North could make the playoffs. Other teams in the wildcard hunt as of right now include the Seahawks and Cowboys, both at 5-5, as well as the Packers and Falcons, both at 4-5.
Mike Coenen is a writer, historian, professor, and author from Little Falls, Minnesota. He is the Vikings analyst for Rambling On and is the co-host of the Minnesota Sports Ramble podcast. Since 2016 he has been creating content for Rambling On as sports analyst and podcast co-host.