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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 their victory against the Packers, their biggest issues this year, and the upcoming game against the Patriots (Mike makes a bold prediction).
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The Vikings hung on to beat the injury-riddled, hapless Packers 24-17. Were you impressed with how they played?
The win was not all that impressive, considering the fact the Packers are just not very good this season. Every team is injury riddled at this point of the season, so unless it is somebody the caliber of an Aaron Rodgers, injuries are not an excuse for losing games. (Erik: I politely disagree. If the Vikings were missing even more of their offensive line and half their d-backs, as the Packers were, this would have been a completely different game. It's not an excuse for losing, but it definitely factors in).
That said, the Vikings beat a Packer team that will not be going to the playoffs this season. If the Vikings would have beaten the Bears, Rams, or Saints at this point in the season, that would be impressive. But against the hapless Packers? Not so much. They got the win, though, and that’s all that really matters.
Do you think that this Vikings team could beat the Bears on the road, much less the Saints or Rams?
No. And especially not in the playoffs. The Vikings would at least stand a chance against the Bears on the road in the playoffs, however. But in New Orleans or Los Angeles? No way. Those two teams are just too good the year.
What the hell happened to the Packers?
Poor defense and the inability to win on the road. No road wins yet this season for the Pack. Playoff teams need to be able to win at least half their road games. They have two more road games left this season: the first is in Chicago, the second is against the Jets. They might beat the Jets, but even that might not happen. The Packers might have new coach next season.
How important is the Xavier Rhodes injury?
It is pretty important. Should the Vikings make it to the playoffs and play either the Saints or Rams, their secondary will get lit up even with Xavier Rhodes. Without him they will get lit up even more.
Tell me the order in which these things concern you and explain why: 1) Turnovers 2) Kicking game 3) Offensive line
1) The offensive line is the biggest problem the Vikings have. There is no way the Vikings can go deep in the playoffs with such a poor offensive line. It is the most overlooked aspect of the today’s game, but quite possibly the most important. The Rams and Saints have great offensive lines and they average 35 and 37 points per game respectively. The Vikings average 24. Enough said.
2) Second on the list of concerns is the kicking game. Dan Bailey is proving to be just as erratic and unreliable as Blair Walsh. The kicking game will cost the Vikings at least one more game this season, maybe more. It’s a real liability, a ticking time-bomb ready to go off at any moment.
3) Turnovers are never good, but they are going to happen, even to the best players and teams. The Vikings actually have more takeaways than they do giveaways this season, and are somewhere in the middle of the pack in the league when it comes to coughing up the ball. It is not a major problem. (Erik: Again, I respectfully disagree. The stats don't show everything, as both Cousins and Cook have given up key turnovers in points in the game that have cost multiple games, making it a concern. Takeaways are practically irrelevant if your team gives up turnovers at inopportune times. And as far as turnovers themselves go, the Vikings are tied for sixth worst in the league with 18, which is far from average or normal. I'd still put it #3 on the list, but I'd definitely call it a fairly big problem).
The Patriots, who the Vikings play next Sunday, have underachieved a bit this year. What is your prediction for next weeks match-up?
On paper the Vikings are a more talented team, but Mike Zimmer is no Bill Belichick. Does coaching make that big of a difference? Yes, I think it does. The Patriots have enough talent for Belichick to get them to the Super Bowl yet again, and the Vikings will not stand in their way on Sunday. The Vikings will keep it close, but in the end Bill Belichick will outcoach Mike Zimmer and get the win.
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.