ESPN loves Vikings after deep analysis
One of the biggest problems it appears the Vikings are going to be facing this season is that outside expectations are starting to get too high.
NFL Network has been especially cozy with the Vikings this offseason, pointing to their history of solid drafting for talent and value, developing players once they have them and an uptick in positivity with the changes being made by Mike Zimmer’s defense and Norv Turner’s offense.
Now ESPN is joining the chorus.
In a story about the potential outsiders that may find themselves looking in not only to the playoffs, but to be a surprise Super Bowl champion like we’ve seen with the 1980 Raiders, the 1999 Rams and the 2001 Patriots, ESPN identified three teams with the ability to go all the way to the Super Bowl and win it.
Who were those teams? In order, the Vikings, Dolphins and Giants.
Despite finishing under .500 four of the last five years, a franchise record, the changes that were pointed out were offensive changes.
Firstly, the ascent of Teddy Bridgewater in December was the most telling stat that was pointed out with the benefit of analytics. In the final five weeks of the season, Bridgewater tied for the league lead in completion percentage (72.1 percent) and his percentage of vertical yards attempted (11 yards or more) was tops in the league at 16.5 percent. ESPN also noted the rarely discussed BDR (Bad Decision Rate) of 0.5 percent – a stat that measures the frequency of mental errors that lead to a turnover opportunity for opponents.
Secondly, the return of Adrian Peterson was given its due. According to more rarely seen metrics dealing with blocking productivity and yardage gained from that, the Vikings were eighth overall and Jerick McKinnon was fifth in yards gained when his running lane wasn’t disrupted by defenders. With the explosion Peterson brings, the expectation is that those numbers should realistically spike.
Thirdly, the addition of Mike Wallace was pointed out as a significant change. Noted for not producing to the level he was expected to in Miami (another team of the Big Three highlighted in the analysis), one stat that was given sway was his status for scoring touchdowns. Only 10 wide receivers in the last two seasons had more touchdowns than the 15 Wallace caught. With the Vikings scoring just 13 wide receiver touchdowns last year – 19th in the league – this was an area viewed as rife for improvement.
For those who are close to the Vikings, there is arguably more excitement about the defense’s projected ascent into the elite. Considering the sports mothership is alerting the NFL nocturnal types that the Vikings offense will elevate them to Super Bowl status, there may be legitimate reason for optimism because. If the offense blows up as projected and the left-out defense does its part, the conclusion may be right.
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