After a 6-10 finish to the 2010 season, Leslie Frazier sees improvements the Vikings need.
Frazier also knows the Vikings face some solid division competition from teams like the Chicago Bears, who went 11-5 and won the NFC North, and Green Bay Packers, who were the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs and got hot at the right time to win Super Bowl XLV.
So where are the Bears and Packers better than the Vikings, based on the 2010 rankings? Here is a look at the key offensive areas where those opponents are ranked compared to the Vikings, and the some of the findings are just what fans would expect.
YARDS: The Vikings found themselves sandwiched in between the top two teams in the NFC North when it came to a few different yardage categories. Minnesota was 23rd in the NFL by averaging 314.9 yards per game, while the Bears were 30th at 289.4 and the Packers were ninth at 358.1 yards per game.
Not surprisingly, most of the Packers' yards came through their passing attack. They ranked fifth in the league in passing yards per game (257.8) and second in passing yards per play (7.62). Once again, the Vikings were in the middle of the threesome of NFC North teams, but just barely. They were 26th in passing yards per game with 193.6 and 27th in passing yards per play at 6.13, but the Bears were 28th in passing yards per game (188.4) and 18th in yards per pass play (6.47).
It's no surprise that the Vikings were best among those teams in the rushing categories while the Bears were slightly better than the Packers. Minnesota was 10th in rushing yards per game (121.4) and ninth in yards per rush (4.4). The Bears were 22nd with 101 yards rushing per game and 23rd with 3.90 yards per rush, while the Packers were 24th in rushing yards per game (100.4) and 25th in yards per rush (3.81).
QUARTERBACK/PROTECTION STATS: The quarterback stats also followed what would be expected – the Packers were good, the Bears and Vikings not so much. Green Bay was 11th with a 2.4 percent interception rate while the Bears were 30th at 4.51 and the Vikings were last in the league at 5.15 percent.
When it came to protecting the quarterback, the Vikings and Packers were pretty similar and the Bears had a hard time keeping Jay Cutler upright. Green Bay was 20th, taking a sack on 7.02 percent of its passing plays while the Vikings were 23rd at 7.13 percent. The Bears were last in the league, taking a sack a whopping 12.02 percent of the time the quarterback dropped to pass. Only one other team was in double digits – the Panthers at 10.33 percent.
CONVERSION PERCENTAGES: So how good were the teams at converting in the red zone, on third downs and fourth downs? Green Bay was easily best of three when it counted most (or most often), on third downs and in the red zone.
The Packers were eighth in the league on third downs, converting 41.46 percent of their opportunities into first downs. The Vikings (24th at 34.63) and Bears (27th at 32.82) lagged well behind.
On fourth down, the percentages don't mean as much because there aren't enough opportunities to draw much for conclusions on a consistent success there, but the Vikings were 16th at 47.06 percent, the Packers were tied for 25th at 38.46 percent and the Bears were 31st at 28.57 percent.
Inside the 20, the Packers were great at turning those opportunities into touchdowns while the Bears and Vikings weren't very good. Green Bay was sixth by turning 60.38 percent of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns. The Bears were 26th at 45.10 percent and the Vikings were 27th at 43.48 percent.
In goal-to-go situations, the Packers were best of three once again. They were 15th in the league with 73.51 of those opportunities turning into touchdowns. The Vikings were 24th at 65 percent and the Bears were 30th at 51.72 percent.
SCORING: Finally on offense, the scoring pretty well reflected the other offensive rankings. The Packers were 10th in the league at 24.8 points per game. The Bears were 21st at 20.9 points and the Vikings averaged 17.6 points per game, 29th in the NFL.
When it comes to offensive rankings between the Packers, Bears and Vikings, it appears that perception is reality – the Packers were best in passing and converting in key situations while the Vikings were better running the ball, but not nearly as good at scoring often enough in 2010.
Stats: Vikings vs. division contenders
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