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3-1 Vikings


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Here are a few of mine:

-Ponder has played well but needs to continue to improve. He's been limited in his receiving options and I think that's helped him in being as efficient as he has. He's not winning any games but not losing them either.

-Much improved safety play...yesterday was fantastic and it made a huge difference in the outcome of the game.

-AP is back!! Looking more explosive each and every week.

-Our rookies and 2nd year guys are really stepping up...Fusco, Rudolph, Harrison, Robinson, Walsh, Ponder, Kahlil and others. Making very significant contributions each week and gaining the experience they lack...all while putting some wins on the board.

I'm not predicting a play-off birth but with a 3-1 start it's not unrealistic to expect an 8 or 9 win season. Even if that doesn't happen I think it will be exciting to see these 1st and 2nd year guys grow as the season progresses.

Go Cowboys!!

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I agree....go cowboys ( go away that is)!!

As for the rest of it...yeah, sounds about right:)

It's great seeing them playing with enthusiasm and pulling together. It sure is fun to see them gelling sooner than most people exected them too.

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I wasn't real low after being 1-1. And I'm not real high on these guys after 3-1. Some quality wins that you can't ignore though.

I like Ponder's progression at QB. He has a good handle on the short stuff and seems to sense pressure when its coming. He's taking what they are giving, but with AP starting to demand more attention there should be opportunities downfield. Simpson only had a few catches but seemed to be effective with the 2 calls. Give him some opportunities to get up and catch it high in CB height mismatches.

Carlson has to be the most expensive TE in history per catch. Time to get this guy some targets or move on.

I'm impressed with a lot of the new guys as well. Kalil has stayed out of the spotlight which means he is protecting the blind side most of the time. Safeties are not allowing the big downfield plays in the past 2 wins. LB's have been great against the run. Dline is not getting many sacks, but seems to be getting some pressure on QB's. We'll need bigger games out of these guys coming up though.

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I am really impressed by the lack of turnovers and stupid penalties. If you take care of the ball and dont commit those stupid penalties you have a chance to be in every game. I am real happy with Ponder so far. Peterson is just a beast plain and simple. Harvin IMO has always been one of the most talented players in the NFL. They just need to have other threats so they cant be doubling him up all the time. Jared Allen still stinks and Everson Griffen looks better than him. Josh Robinson is hands down better than woman beater.

Defense is playing much better than I thought they would and the offense is getting some first downs. Helps when you dont get all those stupid penalties. Our special teams have been pretty good too, which is not typical of a Viqueens team. The touchbacks from Walsh have been great.

Are both of those WRs that we drafted hurt or something? Wish we would have traded those two picks for one and moved up a little to get someone else. If we could start getting a little more pressure on the QB we have a real shot at the playoffs. Something I would have never guessed in my wildest. I thought 4-12 at best. I have been eating crow almost daily.

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So far I like what I see. Major improvments in a number of areas. Ponder isn't looking like a pro bowler but he's looking MUCH better than last year and still improving.

I went through their schedule again and if they continue playing the way they are playing I'm putting them on an 8-8 season. We play the Lions, Bears 2x, Titans, SeaChickens, Redskins, and Rams yet. We have the potential to win 5 of those 7 games assuming we continue to play mistake free football.

I also think the one big benefit to our playoff chances isn't our new found success but rather the lack of success the rest of the league has been having. There seem to be a lot of very pedestrian teams in the NFC right now and you can't count the vikes out of stealing a wild card spot with how the rest of the league is playing.

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Teams are having trouble finding themselves, I think it was huge AP was ready to go, he's the kind of guy you want to go to war with, huge inspiration. Our kicker, like it or not they're always a factor in close games or most games. I think the coaches have done very well, we seem very prepared to play. Chad Greenway's attitude has revived our LB's and D as a whole, seems like a group who heard "rebuilding" and they're like what, we've been playing football our whole life, I'm most impressed with our demeanor on the road, any false starts yet ? I mean we seem really crisp and sharp.

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Ponder hasn't done anything great but he also hasn't done anything stupid so that's nice. I wish he didn't make up his mind where he's going with the ball pre-snap though. You see on them screens and quick slants he just gets the ball and throws it to the spot as fast as he can. One other thing is when he decides to run I wish he would continue to look down field. He's left some big plays out there but other then that he's much improved from last season.

Cheech Harvin and Chong Simpson will help him out a lot in them areas in the future though, it will be nice to have them both on the field at the same time moving foward.

The O-line as played outstanding compared to last season, AP has had some nice holes and Ponder has had more time. This unit is starting to gel nicely, hopefully that continues.

The secondary has been way better this year so far also, they definitely haven't arrived or anything but Smith has been solid and Sanford had a big game. Can't say that about our safety play in a long long time.

Special teams has been great, making big plays and not giving up the big plays. Walsh has been awesome, it's nice having a kicker that can make some long field goals and kick it out of the back of the endzone on kick offs.

I don't think anyone thought we'd be playing like this, from the fans to the haters. We already have as many wins as we had all last season thats a positive.

This was the soft part of our schedule but if we keep playing solid we could still get another handful of wins this year.

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OOOPS, I forgot there are people that still think the Lions are a great team.

Out of the the 4 teams we played only 1 of them is good, that's the softest part of our schedule.

By the way it's the Titans, Skins and Cards up next. Both the Skins and Cards are playing good football, even the Titans have a chance to beat us.

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I don't consider too many road games as ever soft, played at a neutral site it would be a different discussion but I recall when we couldn't win on grass and we had a solid squad then, we're ok, we have top dogs at some positions anyway and if ponder can Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson his way around we'll be ok, I seem to recall quite a few losses last year were a score or less, flip that around some and you're knocking on the playoff door, the cream always rises so stay healthy and our O-line play has surprised me, it usually takes much longer to gel and they haven't totally geled yet !

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All I know is... should it end up that the Vikes find themselves at 4-1 after this week, they'd most likely have a playoff spot by winning 6 of their remaining 11... Should they go 4-1, I'm on board the playoff bandwagon.

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I still think they are going to get murdered after the bye...they aren't a playoff team in my estimation, the success is nice but until they develop in a few different areas, they're an average team. We'll see what happens up to the bye and after. There's plenty of time, 1/4 of the way in, for things to get much better or much worse.

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Vikings are a young team. I think there's more inconsistent, up and down play coming....hopefully more up than down.

I'm just glad to see Ponder is proving himself to be the starting QB for the future. He's missed some open receivers but I think he'll get better over the course of the season. IMO, he's also gotten lucky on some throws which did not get intercepted.

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Agree on Ponder, hit your Peak Christian when the Mannings/Brady/Brees/Big Ben are wondering to give it another go. Young or not I feel lots of these NFL squads are laced with all-american college dudes so why not us, we got em too. It is a touch scary to be playing this well early in the year because at some point you hit rock bottom and stay there or you bounce back and get on track again. 0-4 Bud Grant so no one in Vikingland we'll never be full believers until someday it happens, please "happen" in my lifetime.

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Bill Barnwell at Grandland has an interesting article out today:

Is this real? The first place Vikings.

This week, "Is This Real?" moves onto the rapidly expanding bandwagon of the 3-1 Minnesota Vikings, who are improbably tied for the division lead in the NFC North with the Bears. For a team whose biggest signing this offseason after a 3-13 season was backup tight end John Carlson, the Vikings have basically stood pat with their core of talent and emerged as an impressive team during the first quarter of the NFL season. But are they for real?

Well, the answer to that question starts by reexamining last year's team, one that was better than a lot of people realized. You know the stats that came up in the seemingly ill-fated 49ers preview I wrote before the season? The ones that San Francisco have ignored en route to an impressive 3-1 start of their own? Well, they sure seem to work for the Vikings. Last year, Minnesota was 3-13, but their point differential was that of a 5.5-win team, suggesting that the Vikings' record undersold their actual underlying level of performance by about 2.5 wins. That showed up in Minnesota's record in games decided by a touchdown or less; Minnesota was a dismal 2-9 in those games, including an 0-4 start that saw them blow double-digit halftime leads in each of their first three games. The last team that was so bad in those close games was the 1998 Panthers, who went 2-9 in those close games, 2-3 otherwise, and underperformed their Pythagorean expectation by 2.1 wins. The next year, Carolina went 8-8.

What really surprised me was what little faith Minnesota's fans had in its own team. Since part of my job is writing about teams in ways that aren't common, I'm used to seeing the occasional insult about how I'm a moron or how stats can't fully comprehend the greatness of Antonio Cromartie or the 2010 Denver Broncos. It happens. When I didn't include the Vikings in my list of the league's worst teams heading into the season and actually went ahead and predicted that they would finish with a gaudy 7-9 record, I actually got messages from Vikings fans who thought I was dumb for overestimating their team. That never happens. It speaks to just how beaten down this franchise has been since that narrow loss to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

Few teams have had it worse, that's for sure. Brett Favre went from conquering hero to disastrous sideshow in a year. Sidney Rice emerged as a star and then, just as quickly, got hurt again and left town. Adrian Peterson signed a big contract and tore up his knee. The entire market turned on Brad Childress in 2010, and during the following season, they followed it by scapegoating Donovan McNabb for the team's problems. And all that time, they've had the specter of a stadium debate hanging over the team's head, leaving the organization loath to spend money to make dramatic improvements. This sounds like a lot of fun, right?

Well, most of that is now in the past. The new stadium's been approved. Peterson has made a miraculous recovery from knee surgery and been both healthy and effective. Passing on Rice appears to be one of the best moves the team could have made, while Favre and McNabb are blog fodder. Their quarterback didn't inspire much confidence during his rookie season, but this year, Christian Ponder's dramatically changed his game, which is one of the three reasons why the Vikings have improved upon even that 5.5-win estimate of their level of play from a year ago.


You can take a look at Christian Ponder's season stats as easily as I can. Even if you don't put a lot of stock in statistics, you can probably agree that improving your completion percentage from 54.3 percent to 68.3 percent without throwing an interception all year represents significant improvement. What's noticeable, though, is how the Minnesota offense has changed this year, and how it has put Ponder in positions where he can succeed.

We all hear about making the game easier for a young quarterback by keeping him out of third-and-long. Most of the time, that's linked to an offensive strategy that's built around running the ball on first and second down with nine men in the box, and it usually results in third-and-long, anyway. This year, the Vikings have helped keep Ponder out of third-and-long, but they've done it by throwing the ball on first down, not running it. The Vikings are throwing the ball 12 percent more frequently on first down this year than they did a year ago in two-score situations (e.g., not blowouts), and it's helped create shorter third downs. Last year, the average third-down situation for the Vikings came up with a full 8.0 yards to go; this year, that figure is down to just 6.5 yards. And Ponder's been converting them at nearly a 40 percent clip, up from 35 percent last year.

Of course, throwing on first down doesn't mean anything if you don't execute, and Ponder's been phenomenal at that so far this season. His statistics on first down look like the work of a drastically different quarterback. No, really:

Ponder Cmp Att Cmp % Yds Yds/Att TD INT Sack Rate

2011 54 106 50.9% 628 5.9 7 5 10.2%

2012 29 42 69.0% 293 7.0 0 0 6.7%

Ponder is far more efficient on first down, and it has shown in that small sample. Last year, he picked up 10 yards or more on 24.5 percent of his first down passes and five yards or more on 40.6 of them; this year, those figures are up to 33.3 percent and an even 50 percent, respectively. When you can get five yards through the air that frequently, it's actually smarter to throw on first down than it is to hand the ball off to Peterson. And then, once defenses start respecting your ability to throw on first down, you can start handing the ball to Peterson against softer fronts and get more out of him. Man, football is easy when you complete 70 percent of your passes!

More than anything, Ponder is avoiding the catastrophic mistakes with interceptions and sacks that ended drives for him last year. His sack rate last year was a dismal 9.3 percent, driven by his propensity for scrambling at the slightest bit of pressure and holding on to the ball for far too long. This year, that rate is down to 6.1 percent. If you saw him in the victory over the 49ers, you wouldn't have recognized Ponder; he stood in the pocket against a number of terrifying 49ers blitzes and showed incredible poise, making his throws on time. When he moved out of the pocket, he never panicked and made the correct decision on virtually every play, throwing the ball away when nobody was open and there was nothing to be had. It's been one of the biggest improvements made by any player over the course of this past offseason, and it should stick as Ponder grows older. He's also been aided by the arrival of left tackle Matt Kalil, who has been quietly impressive after being installed at the line's most difficult position from Day 1.

And, yes, there are those zero interceptions. Before I start screaming about regression and Ponder's 4.5 percent interception rate last year, there's certainly a precedent for guys producing huge drops in their interception rate during their second season in the pros. Josh Freeman is a perfect example, as he went from a staggering 6.2 percent interception rate as a rookie to a remarkable 1.3 percent clip during his sophomore campaign. Mark Sanchez's dip wasn't quite as extreme, but he followed a similar path. Obviously, Ponder's going to throw some interceptions before the year is up — the 49ers dropped at least two picks against him in Week 3, and the Lions might have had a couple if they had a cornerback of any consequence — but he's already gone a quarter of the season without throwing one. His interception rate may very well finish under 2 percent, which is a great way to get more out of your talent and finish more drives with points.

So while Ponder won't finish the year by completing 70 percent of his passes and avoiding interceptions altogether, we're likely seeing a quarterback who has raised the level of his game during his second season. His performance matches up with the stats; the frantic quality to his game from a year ago is gone, and Ponder's much better off for it. I never thought I'd say this, but I believe in Christian Ponder.

While Ponder's improvement has been the most noticeable change, the Vikings have enjoyed some lucky bounces that didn't go their way a year ago. In 2011, Minnesota's special teams ranked 27th in DVOA, notably finishing 31st in the "hidden" aspects of special teams performance that are out of their control. That includes things like field goal performance against the Vikings by the opposition and kickoff distance against them (after adjusting for the dome). This year, their hidden special teams performance against has been exactly league-average, and after dominating the scary-bad Lions special teams with both a kick return and a punt return for a touchdown last week, Minnesota's special teams rate out as the best in football. Of course, it's also safe to say that the Vikings won't score 14 points a week on special teams, as they did last week, nor will they block a kick every other week, as they've done so far this year. Minnesota's special teams might very well be good or even great, but nobody's special teams are this good.

And, of course, there's that great underlying hidden indicator that doesn't show up on tape: strength of schedule. While the Vikings just knocked off two playoff teams in consecutive weeks, their other two games were against the dregs of the AFC South, the Colts and Jaguars. This week, they finish up their tour of the friendly side of the league's worst division with a game against the Titans, and follow that with a trip to Washington.

From then on, the schedule gets tougher, but things get particularly dicey after their Week 11 bye. Minnesota will be on the road for four of their final six games, and the competition will be tough: The Vikings finish up with home-and-homes against the Bears and Packers, a trip to Houston, and a game in St. Louis. (Of course, the AFC South is so bad that they might get lucky and face a Texans team that's resting its starters in Week 16.) Some of Minnesota's performance this year undoubtedly comes down to a friendly strength of schedule, a factor that will be harder to come by later in the year.

What does it all add up to? To me, it's a Vikings team that will continue to exceed every expectation of their performance from before the season, but one that will struggle to be this good as the season goes along. Vikings fans might be eyeing the playoffs right now, but chances are that they finish within a game of .500 in a very respectable comeback season.

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The Vikings at 3-1 is like the stock market's current value of 13000... over sold and when it crashes (which it will) it will crash hard.

Sell now.


The consensus on this board is that the Vikes quick start has set them up to potentially finish @ .500. Nothing more...nothing less.

If you care to post your predicted Viking win total on here...feel free. Otherwise, your "see, I told you so" posts bring little to the conversation.

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All I'm saying is that those two unexpected wins early in the season are just two more games that you'll have to tolerate the horrible coaching of Leslie. Fluke special teams TD's and opponents playing like they've never played organized football before lead to an over inflated record of 3-1 and the masking of Leslie's ineptitude.

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