Written by: Jack H. Day – Staff Writing Intern (@GrandstandDay)
After having their best start since 2009, the Minnesota Vikings have lost their last four games. The Vikings got their fan base excited early, but they are biting their nails at the hopes of still making the playoffs in 2016. In order for the Vikings to turn their season around, and not be the new Atlanta Falcons, let’s look at what they need to fix in order to stay a playoff contender.
| The Offensive Line
Let’s start with one of the weakest links on the team, the offensive line. It is hard for any team to overcome losing three of their top tackles in a matter of a month (Matt Kalil and Andre Smith to injury, and Phil Loadholt to retirement). If the Vikings want to have any chance at a playoff run, it’s all gonna start up front. With how much of a run reliant team the Vikings are on short and “manageable”, it is important that the offensive line starts winning the leverage battles. The Vikings are averaging under 70 yards-per-game rushing, ranking 31st in the NFL.
If anyone were to ask a Vikings fan at the beginning of the season if they would miss Matt Kalil if he left Minnesota they would have laughed in your face. Kalil has been one the fan bases most dreaded players when going up against big time defensive ends, but the fan base is sure missing him now. Kalil is currently on the Vikings IR with star running back Adrian Peterson, and said today that a return this season is unlikely.
| The Ex-Kicker
One of the biggest momentum killers for the Vikings is obvious. Blair Walsh’s continues struggles have single-handedly lost games for the struggling Vikings and that is something that cannot happen when the team is so desperate for its next win. Walsh has missed a league leading eight field goals in 2016 (four extra points, and four field goals).
If Walsh would have made both of his extra points in week nine against Detroit, the Vikings would be sitting at 6-4 instead of 5-4 after their loss against Washington in week ten. Every fan is on the edge of their seats when Walsh lines up for a kick, and that is not how it should be when you are one out of 32 of the best kickers in the world. It is time for the Vikings to start going for two after scoring a touchdown, because the extra point is no longer a gimme with Walsh’s sketchy confidence.
| The Defense
The Vikings defense has not looked as great it did the first five games, but it is still playing at a high level. This unit struggled the first quarter against Washington, but kept the Vikings in the game by shutting down the Redskins offense for the rest of the first half. Their red-zone defense continues to impress, holding the Redskins to four field goals in the second half. With the offense struggling, it puts the defense on the field more and it is clearly wearing down the big men up front. Sacks have been much harder to come by with the d-line being kept on the field for longer periods of time.
After week five, many people around the league thought that the Vikings were a legit Super Bowl contender. After the last four weeks, that opinion has not only changed, but dropped the Vikings out of the top ten in most power rankings. Week eleven is a must win for the Vikings at home against an Arizona team that has struggled early as well. If the Vikings cannot fix their recurring problems, their playoff hopes are going to continue to dwindle.