In 2008 the Vikings finished the season ranked #1 against the run, which made them the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rank #1 against the run in 3 consecutive seasons (2006-2008). Their quest to duplicate the feat once again in 2009 got off to a rocky start, but quickly turned around and eventually the Vikings had the #2 ranked rushing defense in Week 12.
Now, however, after games against the Cincinnati Bengals (119 net rushing yards) and the Carolina Panthers (124), the Vikings defense has slipped a bit down to 4th in the NFL.
But, as the NFL is nearly set for its final week of the regular season, there is a chance the Vikings can climb up further in the rankings. And there’s an outside shot they could stake claim to the #1 ranking once again.
Here’s a look at the top 4 rushing defenses:
Team Yards Allowed Yards Per Game
1) Green Bay 1,285 85.7
2) Cincinnati 1,316 87.7
3) Pittsburgh 1,339 89.3
4) Minnesota 1,359 90.6
The first hurdle in front of the Vikings is their opponent, the NY Giants, who rank 12th in rushing offense with a 120.1-yard average per game. Helping the Vikings cause this week is that starting RB Brandon Jacobs is out for the Giants. While Ahmad Bradshaw is more than a capable starter, the Giants will be without their tandem plus Bradshaw is dealing with ankle and foot injuries.
If the Vikings are able to contain the Giants running game, they’ll have a legitimate chance to move up to #2 in the rankings and a very outside chance at moving up to #1.
The Steelers (#3) play at Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins have the league’s 4th-ranked rushing attack (142.1 yards per game). The Bengals (#2) play at the NY Jets, who have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack at 166.6 yards per game. Sitting 20 yards behind the Steelers and 43 yards behind the Bengals, the Vikings have a shot to move up (if they can take care of their own business against New York).
Green Bay, however, seems to have a pretty good hold on the #1 spot. They are 74 yards ahead of the Vikings through 15 games and they play at Arizona on Sunday. The Cardinals have the NFL’s 26th-ranked attack at 96.4 yards per game. While it’s possible the Vikings could leap ahead of Green Bay, it seems unlikely because of how much Arizona likes to pass the ball.
Even if the Vikings aren’t able to move up the rankings this week, their 2009 effort is nothing at which to scoff. They extended their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 36 games before Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart broke it up and they are tied with New England for the fewest rushing TDs allowed with 4.
Over the past 3+ seasons (2006-now), the Vikings have given up a total of 4,759 rushing yards, the lowest mark in the NFL over that time and opponents are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry over the same stretch, which is tied with the Baltimore Ravens for #1 in the NFL as well.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 16 Comments »