The Vikings have rolled to a 6-1 record in the first half of the season, but last week’s 29-17 loss to the Giants exposed some weaknesses in Mke Tice’s team. Kerry Collins torched the defense for 375 yards, and two fourth-quarter interceptions by Daunte Culpepper sealed the Vikings’ fate. Minnesota certainly has the tools to be a very good team, but are they a championship-level team? Or will they slide back to the pack in the second half of the season?
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)|
|Rushing Offense||137.1 (6)||7 (t7)|
|Passing Offense||234.7 (6)||16 (1)|
|Rushing Defense||98.4 (9)||6 (t16)|
|Passing Defense||244.0 (28)||8 (t8)|
|Turnover Stats||Upcoming Schedule|
|19 takeaways (t3)
7 giveaways (2)
+12 overall (2)
The Vikings can, for all intents and purposes, win the NFC North this week with a home victory over the Packers. A win would give them a four game lead, a 4-0 division record, and the head-to-head tiebreaker over Green Bay. Nothing short of a total collapse would stop them with such an overwhelming lead. And five remaining games against league doormats San Diego, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, and Arizona should provide them with the title even if they do slip up this week. Things look great from a fantasy perspective, but beware, Vikings fans – teams who take such an easy road to the playoffs are often not ready for the pressure when they get there. And I’m sure the purple-clad crazies don’t need to be reminded of the Vikings’ repeated playoff choke jobs in recent years.
Daunte Culpepper, QB – When healthy, Culpepper has been one of the league’s top fantasy quarterbacks. He brings a running threat that few quarterbacks do, and with Michael Vick injured, he is probably the best running QB in the game currently. If I have to tell you to start him every week, you’re just not paying attention.
Gus Frerotte, QB – Frerotte filled in admirably while Culpepper missed two weeks with a back injury. He is a good pickup for Culpepper owners who have an extra spot on the roster. Should he be called on again, you will need his numbers to keep your team going.
Michael Bennett, RB – It looks as though Bennett will return to the lineup this week in limited duty against the Packers. I would hold off starting him immediately, as the Vikings want to bring him back slowly. They have no reason to rush things, as they have managed to put up excellent rushing numbers even with him missing from the lineup. Don’t be surprised if the RBBC continues in Minnesota all season.
Moe Williams, RB – Williams has carried the bulk of the rushing load to this point, but his stats on a weekly basis are not always what you need from a #1 back. Expect to see the numbers decline even more as Bennett returns to the lineup. If you’ve been using Williams during the first half of the season, see what you can do to acquire Bennett.
Onterrio Smith, RB – Rookie running backs often do well in the NFL, and Onterrio Smith certainly has enough talent to be a premier back in this league. Right now, the Vikings’ backfield is just too crowded. He doesn’t hold much fantasy value for the rest of this year unless there is an injury. But keep an eye on him in the future, he’s an excellent prospect for keeper leagues.
Randy Moss, WR – The unthinkable has happened this year. Randy Moss actually seems motivated and is keeping himself out of trouble. I don’t think Moss will ever fix his me-first, Randy-is-god attitude, but I’m taking a big step here by saying I would actually draft this guy next year. In the past, I have just felt that he is too much of a risk to do something stupid and end up not playing for some extended period of time. I still can’t stand the guy, but he appears to be maturing somewhat and certainly deserves his ranking of #2 receiver in the league behind Marvin Harrison.
Kelley Campbell/Nate Burleson, WR – After Moss, there is a big drop-off in the WR numbers for Minnesota. Like a Grand Canyon cliffside type of drop-off. If you took Campbell and Burleson’s stats and rubbed them together, you might have enough for a 3rd WR in a 20-team league. Randy Moss is the beginning, middle, and end of this passing game.
Jim Kleinsasser, TE – Kleinsasser turned some heads with his 2 TD game in week two, but that came against a pathetic Chicago squad, and he has failed to catch more than two passes in any game since then. He will put up a few points for your fantasy team if you’re desperate for a backup, but you can probably find a better option.
Defense/Special Teams – This is an improved unit, and their run-stopping ability has contributed to a 6-1 record as much as any other factor. They still give up a lot of yards through the air, so don’t be afraid to start opposing QB’s and WR’s against them. They do force a lot of turnovers and ring up a few sacks, so they’re not a bad fantasy start if your current defense isn’t getting the job done.
The Bottom Line
This team has some of the game’s top fantasy players, and the schedule is good (not great) down the stretch. Enjoy the stats if you have a Viking on your team. Minnesota will play in a lot of high-scoring games, so look for players who are matched up against them for good plays as well. A fantasy owner’s dream.
Next Week … We’ll visit the AFC South for the first time this year and put another high-scoring team, the Indianapolis Colts, under the microscope. Will this finally be the year they break the playoff curse? Can they go all the way to Houston in February? It’s a bit early to tell for sure, but I’ll have all the fantasy analysis for you next week.