The Vikings haven’t had a close game yet after being on the losing end of a handful of games decided in the last minute last year.
The Vikings have had their share of ups and downs this year, but there’s one thing they haven’t had – a nail-biting finish.
Through four games, the Vikings have outscored their opponents 91-84. The two games they have won, they won by 28 and 14 points. The two games they’ve lost, they’ve lost by 23 and 11 points.
The measure of a good team is how they react when the heat is on in the final minutes. Clock management is a key. A judicious use of timeouts is a key. The new coaching staff of the Vikings hasn’t had to deal with that yet.
To date, when they win, they win big. When they lose, they lose big.
One of the biggest issues with the 5-10-1 2013 Vikings was that they would have finished 10-6 if games were 59 minutes long instead of 60. With that record, they would have won the NFC North Division, hosted a playoff game against San Francisco and, by all likelihood, Mike Zimmer, Norv Turner and George Edwards wouldn’t be here.
The new regime has exceeded preseason forecasts from just about anyone who makes forecasts at this point. At best, even Vikings apologists figured if they came out of the first five with a record of 2-3, it would be a best-case scenario.
Thursday night, the Vikings have the opportunity to exceed the best-case expectations. Seeing as they’re in the position they are without Adrian Peterson
and potentially having their third different starting quarterback in less than three weeks, there is plenty to be excited about if you’re a Vikings fan. If they come out of what has been widely referred to as Murderer’s Row at 3-2, it might be time to get really excited.
We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly over the course of the first four Vikings games. The phrase “next man up” has been used ad nauseam. Falcon fans are currently lamenting being schooled by a rookie quarterback surrounded by the Big Three – Matt Asiata
, Jerick McKinnon
and Jarius Wright
Vikings climb 5 spots in AP Pro32 rankings
It could be argued that, without the philosophical change in the Vikings, they wouldn’t have a prayer against Green Bay in their fabled house. If that’s the case, we won’t know how the Zimmer-led Vikings deal with a 24-24 score late in the fourth quarter. The Vikings of 2013 made their mark and is wasn’t a legacy worth remembering, unless you buy into the 59-minute conspiracy theory.
We know a lot about the potential of the 2014 Vikings. What we don’t know is how they react when a game is on the line in the final two minutes.
Will we find out tonight? Get your prime-time popcorn ready.
VIKINGS-PACKERS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 21st-ranked offense in the league (8th rushing, 24th passing) and the 17th-ranked defense (15th rushing, 17th passing).
The Packers have the 28th-ranked offense (28th rushing, 15th passing) and the 26th-ranked defense (32nd rushing, 5th passing).
Minnesota is averaging 344 yards a game (209 passing, 135 rushing). The defense is allowing 354 yards a game (241 passing, 113 rushing).
Green Bay is averaging 307 yards a game (234 passing, 73 rushing). The defense is allowing 390 yards a game (214 passing, 176 rushing).
The Packers are tied for fourth in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-4 (three giveaways, seven takeaways). The Vikings are tied for 17th at even (four giveaways, four takeaways).
Green Bay is tied for ninth in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on nine of 14 possessions (64.3 percent). The Vikings are tied for 18th at 54.5 percent (six TDs on 11 possessions).
The Packers are tied for 14th in red zone defense, allowing seven touchdowns on 13 possessions (53.8 percent). Minnesota is 19th at 55.6 percent (five TDs in nine possessions).
Of the teams that have played four games, none have allowed fewer defensive red zone possessions than the Vikings.
The Vikings are 24th in third -down conversions on offense at 37.3 percent (19 of 51). Green Bay is 10th at 47.7 percent (21 of 44). The league average is 43.2 percent.
Defensively, the Vikings are tied for 30th on third-down conversions allowed at 50 percent (28 of 56). The Packers are dead last at 52.6 percent (30 of 57).
The Vikings are third in average starting positions following kickoffs, with an average start of the 24.3-yard line. The Packers are 21st with an average start at the 20.3-yard line.
The Vikings are 15th in defensive starting position at the 20.4-yard line. Green Bay is 27th with an average opponent start at the 23.4-yard line.
Of Blair Walsh’s 22 kickoffs, 18 of them have been touchbacks. Of the 22 kickoffs by Mason Crosby, 12 have been touchbacks.
Aaron Rodgers has two 300-yard passing games. The Vikings have one, which came last week from Teddy Bridgewater.
Neither the Vikings nor Packers have allowed a 300-yard passer this season.
Green Bay has three 100-yard receiving games – two from Jordy Nelson and one from Randall Cobb. The Vikings have one – coming last week from Jarius Wright.
The Packers have allowed one 100-yard receiving game. Minnesota has allowed none.
The Vikings have two 100-yard rushing games, one from Jerick McKinnon and one from Cordarelle Patterson. Green Bay hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher.
The Packers have allowed two 100-yard rushers. The Vikings have allowed one.
Rodgers is 16th in pass attempts (137), 12th in completions (96), 10th in yards (999), tied for fourth in touchdowns (9) and second in passer rating (109.1). Bridgewater doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify on the league leader board.
Rodgers is second in fourth-quarter passer rating at 137.9. Bridgewater is 10th at 104.0.
Rodgers is second in third-down passer rating at 128.2. Bridgewater doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify.
Eddie Lacy is 28th in rushing with 161 yards. Matt Asiata is 29th with 159 yards.
Nelson leads the NFL with 33 receptions. Cobb is tied for 21st with 21 receptions. Greg Jennings leads the Vikings with 15 receptions, which ties him for 54th.
Nelson leads the NFL in receiving yards with 459. Cobb is 31st with 239 yards. Jennings leads the Vikings with 204 yards, which ties him for 42nd.
Cobb leads the NFL in scoring among non-kickers with 32 points (five touchdowns and one 2-point conversion). Matt Asiata is tied for seventh with 24 points (four TDs).
Walsh is eighth in scoring among kickers with 35 points. Crosby is tied for 21st with 24.
Walsh is third in the league in touchbacks with 18. Crosby is tied for 13th with 12.
Nelson is third in the NFL with 459 yards (all receiving). Patterson is 40th with 276 yards (181 receiving, 95 rushing).
Jeff Locke is 16th in punting average at 45.8 yards. Tim Masthay is 27th at 43.5 yards.
Masthay is 13th in net punting average at 41.2 yards. Locke is 18th at 39.3 yards.
Patterson is third in the league in kickoff return average at 30.8 yards.
Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson are tied for third in the league in interceptions with two.
Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Tom Johnson are tied for 17th in sacks with two. No Packer has more than one.
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