Look, none of us will ever really be on the Minnesota Vikings bandwagon, but some compliments were begrudgingly handed out around here earlier this week. The facts are as follows.
The Minnesota Vikings — those scumbags — are off to a 3-0 start. They’ve attained that 3-0 start with an offense that is merely good enough to not lose games for them. The Vikings defense, on the other hand, has looked like it could possibly be the best defense in the league.
Through three games, the Vikings are sixth in total defense. More impressively, they have a +8 turnover differential. They’ve scored two defensive touchdowns and a safety. Their 15 sacks lead the league.
As you can see, the Vikings’ recipe thus far has been to pressure the quarterback, create turnovers and then hope their shitty offense doesn’t fuck everything up.
We’ve seen that formula work. It worked last year with the Denver Broncos. Great defense, but they were quarterbacked by the rotting carcass of Peyton Manning. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is getting the same directive Peyton got in 2015 — just don’t blow it for us, you moron!
There are two interesting things at play here.
First, the Vikings don’t have a running game at all. Their leading rusher through three games is Jerick McKinnon, with a whopping 53 yards on 19 carries (2.8 per). Adrian Peterson is on injured reserve and isn’t returning anytime soon, if at all. Besides that, he wasn’t any good when he was on the field. Peterson had just 50 yards in 31 carries through two games (1.6 per).
The 2015 Broncos had two guys — C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman — combine for 1,583 yards and 12 TDs. Both guys averaged more than 4 yards per carry. The Vikings do not appear to have a guy or even multiple guys who can combine for that type of effort.
So what are you going to do when it gets cold outside? Hope for a bunch of 7-6 wins?
Second, there’s that turnover differential. In three games, the Vikings have taken the ball away nine times. Eye-popping statistics like that don’t tend to last throughout the course of an entire NFL season. The Big Lead pulled some interesting numbers.
There are 19 teams since 1990 that have gotten off to a 3-0 start, with a turnover differential of +7 or better, besides Minnesota. Those other 19 teams averaged 6.7 wins and 6.3 losses over the remainder of the season, winning just over half the remaining games. Twelve of the 19 reached the postseason, but only the 1996 Packers reached (and won) a Super Bowl.
Compare that to the opposite spectrum. The 3-0 teams that started with a +1 turnover differential or worse (25 teams) won 7.6 and lost 5.4 games on average, a 59% winning percentage. Twenty of the 25 made the postseason, and six of them reached the Super Bowl.
We’re not here to predict disaster for the Vikings (although we’d really, REALLY love to). That defense is legit and that alone likely gets them into the playoffs.
However, things change over the course of an NFL season. Opposing teams adjust, the weather plays a role and injuries are always the great equalizer.
The Vikings clearly have the Green Bay Packers number at the moment. Through three weeks, they are the superior team. There’s a hell of a long way to go, though.