Nobody talks about tie-breakers on the first Sunday of October. Nor should they. However, perhaps no non-conference game will have a bigger impact on the NFC North than today’s Vikings-Broncos game.
With three teams left that haven’t won a game yet, two of them are in the NFC North. Chicago is a home dog to Oakland. Critical thinkers are pointing to this as a sign of an impending apocalypse. Seeing as the Bears are gutting their defense to cleanse itself from the regime that signed them, maybe they should home dogs.
A 0-4 start looks possible for the Bears in a game that even jaded outsiders had to view as an automatic “W” before the season – even if the same outsider viewed Chicago as a double-digit loser this year. The NFL opted to give the Bears three of their first four games on the 2015 slate at Soldier Field. Another loss and the Great Chicago Fire Sale may intensify.
Detroit is looking to get off the schneid by notching its first victory Monday night. All the Lions have to do is going is go into a bird sanctuary and roar. Typically, helpless prey is taken down by Lions. Monday night? The Lions won’t be predators. They will be prey. Natural selection gets the checkmark on the scoreboard.
There is a strong likelihood that when the sun rises Tuesday morning, there will be a pair of 0-4 teams in the NFC North. The fight to knock Green Bay off its haughty perch atop the division will effectively be reduced to one team – the Vikings.
Will they be 3-1 heading into their bye week and telling Green Bay to lock and load? Or will they be 2-2 and having their headlights fading in the distance in the Packers’ rearview mirror?
We’ll know a lot more when the sun goes down tonight.
VIKINGS-BRONCOS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Broncos have the NFL’s 30th-ranked offense (31st rushing, 18th passing) and the top-ranked defense (6th rushing, 1st passing).
- The Vikings have the 29th ranked offense (3rd rushing, 32nd passing) and the 18th ranked defense (24th rushing, 16th passing).
- The Vikings are averaging 294 yards a game on offense (144 rushing, 150 passing). The Broncos are averaging 291 yards and game (57 rushing, 234 passing).
- Denver is allowing just 259 yards a game (83 rushing, 176 passing). Minnesota is allowing 362 yards a game (119 rushing, 243 passing).
- Denver is first in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-6 (10 takeaways, four giveaways). Minnesota is tied for sixth at plus-3 (six takeaways, three giveaways).
- The Broncos are tied for eighth in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on five of seven possessions (71.4 percent). The Vikings are 22nd at 50 percent (five touchdowns on 10 possessions).
- Denver is third in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on three of eight possessions (37.5 percent). Minnesota is tied for eighth at 50 percent (five touchdowns on 10 opponent possessions).
- The league average on third-down conversions is 40.1 percent. Offensively, Denver is ranked 18th at 39.1 percent (18 conversions on 46 attempts). Minnesota is 26th at 34.4 percent (11 of 32).
- Defensively, Denver is first in third-down conversion percentage at 18.8 percent (6 of 32). Minnesota is 24th at 45.2 percent (19 of 42).
- The Vikings are 13th in yards gained per play on first down (5.68). Denver is dead last at 3.36 yards per play, almost a full yard less than No. 31 (New York Jets, 4.13).
- Defensively, Denver is first in yards allowed on first downs at 3.72 yards. The Vikings are 18th at 5.63 yards.
- Peyton Manning has one 300-yard passing game. Teddy Bridgewater has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game.
- Neither team has allowed a 300-yard passer.
- Denver has one 100-yard receiving game (Demaryius Thomas). The Vikings have yet to have a 100-yard receiver.
- Adrian Peterson has two 100-yard rushing games, the only player in the league with more than one. The Broncos haven’t had a 100-yard rusher.
- The Vikings have allowed one 100-yard rusher. Denver has yet to allow one.
- Bridgewater is 29th in pass attempts (74), 29th in completions (50), 9th in completion percentage (67.6), 30th in passing yards (505), tied for 34th in touchdown passes (1), tied for 8th in interceptions (2) and 23rd in passer rating (80.1).
- Manning is tied for 3rd in pass attempts (127), 4th in completions (81), 16th in completion percentage (63.8 percent), 13th in passing yards (755), tied for 8th in touchdowns (5), tied for 19th in interceptions (3) and 18th in passer rating (83.3).
- Manning is 14th in fourth-quarter passer rating at 103.9. Bridgewater is 36th at 60.2.
- Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 291 yards. C.J. Anderson leads the Broncos with 74 yards rushing, which ties him for 49th in the league with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
- Mike Wallace and Kyle Rudolph are tied for the team leads in receptions with 12, which ties them for 49th place in the league. Demaryius Thomas is tied for 6th with 24 receptions and Emmanuel Sanders is tied for 10th with 22.
- Wallace leads the Vikings with 150 receiving yards, which puts him in 55th place in the NFL. Thomas is 12th in receiving yards with 268. Sanders is 21st with 239 receiving yards.
- Sanders is tied for first in third-down receptions with 12. Thomas is tied for fourth with seven. No Vikings player has more than three third-down receptions.
- Denver kicker Brandon McManus is seventh in the league in scoring among kickers with 26 points. Blair Walsh is tied for 19th with 18 points.
- McManus is tied for second in touchbacks with 15. Walsh is tied for 13th with 10.
- Peterson is third in the league in yards from scrimmage with 370 (291, 79 receiving). Thomas is 22nd with 268 yards (all receiving). Sanders is 33rd with 239 yards (all receiving).
- Peterson and Sanders are tied for eighth place in the league in first downs gained with 12 each.
- Denver punter Britton Colquitt is 17th in the league in punting average at 46.2 yards. Jeff Locke is 29th with a 40.8-yard average.
- Colquitt is 11th in net punting average at 41.8 yards. Locke is 15th at 40.6 yards, due in large part to opponents having just 2 return yards on Vikings punts.
- Of the 17 players with enough kickoff returns to qualify for league leadership, Cordarrelle Patterson is eighth with a 27.2-yard average. Denver doesn’t have a return man with enough returns to qualify.
- Denver’s Aqib Talib is tied with 12 others for the league lead with two interceptions. The Vikings’ two interceptions have come from linebacker Chad Greenway and defensive end Justin Trattou.
- DeMarcus Ware is tied for second in the league in sacks with 3½. Everson Griffen is tied for fifth with three.