For just the 2nd time this season the Vikings will take the field on Sunday coming off a loss from the previous week. In their first bounce-back game, the Vikings marched into Lambeau Field and defeated the Packers. This time, the Purple has an equally-tough challenge as they host the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
I see a parallel in the significance of this game compared to the significance of the Vikings bounce-back game against Green Bay back on November 1. The loss to Pittsburgh in Week 7 brought some to question the legitimacy of the Vikings near flawless record. Then the win against Green Bay on the road erased those questions.
Now the Vikings, even with an impressive 10-2 record, are coming off another loss and many will be watching to see how they respond as the NFC playoff picture begins to take form, the Saints run away with the #1 seed and the Packers continue to win. Is it likely that Green Bay can catch Minnesota? With a 2-game lead and the tie-breaker in their back pocket with just 4 games to go, you wouldn’t think so. But a win this weekend is important nonetheless – it will clinch a playoff spot and, combined with a Green Bay loss at Chicago, would give the Vikings their 2nd consecutive NFC North championship.
On to the matchup. As we said while setting the table for Arizona last week, the Vikings had enjoyed major statistical advantages in their 3 matchups coming out of the bye against Detroit, Seattle and Chicago. But that wasn’t the case against Arizona and it’s not the case against Cincinnati.
Specifically, the Bengals have been impressive this year defending the run – they rank 2nd in the NFL – and in now allowing points – they are 1st in the NFL with just 15.6 points allowed per game. In fact, over the last 6 games the Bengals have gone 5-1 and they’ve allowed just 10.1 points per contest.
In addition to all of that, the Bengals are respectable against the pass (ranked 12th in the league) and they have the NFL’s top-ranked 3rd down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 32.9% of their chances. Also, the Bengals have the 5th-best red zone defense, allowing opponents to score TDs on just 44.4% of the trips inside the 20.
Offensively, the Bengals have some playmakers in the passing game. We’ll get to that in a bit. First, though, I want to talk about their running game. You’re probably familiar with the name Cedric Benson. He was a 1st-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2005 and turned out to be a bust in the Windy City. But he’s revived his career in Cincinnati. Benson paces the league’s 6th-ranked rushing attack and he’s 3rd in the AFC in rushing with 969 yards (he also averages 4.0 yards per carry).
I haven’t watched film of Bengals games this year nor have I asked a scout about this, but I’ve concluded that the Bengals offensive line is playing well this year. My conclusion is based on the fact that they pave the way for the 6th-best rushing attack and they’ve allowed just 22 sacks on the season – only 7 teams have allowed fewer sacks. So the Vikings defensive line will have another challenge on their hands this week after getting shutout in terms of sacks against Arizona last week.
Lastly, let’s talk about the Bengals passing game. Remember how last week we said that Arizona’s defense doesn’t stack up well statistically but they still have several talented individuals? Well I’d say the same thing about Cincinnati’s passing game. It’s ranked just 21st in the NFL, but Carson Palmer calls the signals and he’s throwing to ultra-productive 9-year veteran Chad Ochocinco (formerly known as Chad Johnson) as well as WRs Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles (who played with Brett Favre last year in New York). Also, don’t sleep on TE J.P. Foschi. Since their Week 8 bye, Foschi has 10 receptions and he’s playing well in the run game.
There’s a lot more to talk about with this matchup, obviously, and we’ll have it all right here on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog this week. This is a good matchup between division leaders and teams with high aspirations. So stay tuned for more.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 15 Comments »
Vikings WR Percy Harvin has been named a finalist for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors after his performance in the Vikings 30-17 loss to Arizona on Sunday night.
Harvin caught 6 passes for 79 yards and 1 TD and also had 22 rushing yards and 62 kickoff return yards in the loss. His performance on Sunday night increased his season-long yardage total to1,780, including rushing, receiving and return yards.
Also nominated for this week’s award are Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno, Dolphins CB Vontae Davis, Raiders WR Louis Murphy and Colts CB Jacob Lacey.
You can vote for Harvin by clicking here.
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The Vikings didn’t play well against the Arizona Cardinals in front of a national television audience on NBC this past Sunday night.
But they’ll get another crack at it on December 20.
The Vikings-Panthers game is scheduled for a 7:20 p.m. CT start on NBC, but the NFL’s ability to utilize flex scheduling could’ve resulted in the game being moved to earlier in the day on Sunday in favor of a more interesting/relevant matchup.
But the decision has been made to keep the Vikings-Panthers game in the Sunday night slot.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 13 Comments »
To cap off what has been a miserable (to put it mildly) Week 13 of the regular season for the Vikings, division rival Green Bay was victorious on Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. That leaves the Vikings at 10-2 overall and with a 2-game lead over the 8-4 Packers.
The Green Bay win on Monday night comes on the heels of a miracle New Orleans Saints win early on Sunday that fortified their handle on the NFC’s #1 seed, a Vikings 30-17 loss at Arizona and the loss of LB E.J. Henderson to a broken leg.
Yeah, it wasn’t a great week for the Vikings.
And that’s why we’re putting it behind us today. Typically we wait until early Wednesday morning to set the table for the upcoming opponent, but we’re going to do that this morning in an upcoming post.
So stay tuned, Week 14 will be better than Week 13.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 13 Comments »