One of the establishing points Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wanted to instill in his players was that, if they’re going to be successful, they had to find a way to win on the road – especially against the division rivals of the NFC North.
Both the downfall of Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier prior to the arrival of Zimmer was largely due to their lack of being able to win road games. That futility was even more pronounced within the division.
From 2010-13, the Vikings won just seven of 32 road games, posting a record of 7-24-1. Complicating that was that in the 12 games played against the division, the Vikings posted a league-worst record of 1-10-1.
It was almost impossible to be a consistent winner when, during a four-year span, the Vikings never won more than three road games and lost more division road games than they won.
When Zimmer arrived in Minnesota, he wasn’t faring much better. In his first season with the Vikings, the team posted frighteningly similar numbers in 2014 – 2-6 on the road and 0-3 against NFC North opponents.
At the start of the 2015 season, it didn’t look much better. The Vikings lost their first two road games, dropping Zimmer’s career road record to 2-8.
Then something happened with the Vikings. They found ways to not only win on the road, but to dominate.
In their last eight road games, the Vikings have posted a record of 7-1 record. The only loss was a 23-20 Thursday night loss at Arizona in which the Vikings defense was without starting safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and linebacker Anthony Barr – a game that was tied at the two-minute warning.
Along that stretch, the Vikings have won all three games they have played against the NFC North.
For all of the things the Vikings have been able to turn around since their bye week of 2015 – putting up a record of 14-3, including a 7-1 record on the road – Minnesota has become a dominating power because, if you’re going to win a Super Bowl, it’s imperative to be strong at home and away from home.
The Vikings have proved they can do that and will be looking to make the Philadelphia Eagles their next victim.
VIKINGS-EAGLES BY THE NUMBERS
(Note: The individual numbers and rankings for players are lower than might be expected since both Philadelphia and Minnesota have had their bye weeks, while 24 teams have played six games and have yet to experience their byes.)
- The Vikings have the 30th-ranked offense (32nd rushing, 24th passing) and the second-ranked defense (4th rushing, 6th passing).
- The Eagles have the 21st-ranked offense (8th rushing, 26th passing) and the sixth-ranked defense (18th rushing, 4th passing).
- Minnesota is averaging 303 yards of offense per game (232 passing, 71 rushing). Philadelphia is averaging 339 yards a game (225 passing, 114 rushing).
- The Vikings are allowing 288 yards a game (210 passing, 78 rushing). The Eagles are allowing 312 yards a game (207 passing, 105 rushing).
- Minnesota leads the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-11 (12 takeaways, one giveaway). Philadelphia is third at plus-6 (eight takeaways, two giveaways).
- Nobody other than the Vikings and Eagles has less than four giveaways.
- The Vikings are tied for 16th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on seven of 13 possessions (53.8 percent). The Eagles are tied for 19th at 52.6 percent (10 touchdowns in 19 possessions).
- Defensively, the Eagles are tied for ninth in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on eight of 16 possessions (50 percent). Minnesota is tied for 22nd at 63.6 percent (seven touchdowns in 11 possessions).
- Minnesota is 13th in red zone offense at 40.0 percent (28 conversions in 70 attempts). Philadelphia is 28th at 33.3 percent (21 of 63). The league average is 39.1 percent.
- Defensively, the Vikings are sixth in third-down conversions allowed at 33.8 percent (23 of 68). The Eagles are 15th at 37.7 percent (20 of 53).
- The Vikings are 31st in average yards gained on first down, averaging 4.29 yards. But, the Vikings are first in first-down defense, allowing just 3.53 yards. The league average on first down is 5.55 yards.
- The Eagles and Vikings a 1-2 in average starting position following kickoffs. Philadelphia is No. 1 with an average starting position of the 28.3-yard line. The Vikings are No. 2 with an average starting position of the 27.5-yard line.
- Carson Wentz has one 300-yard passing game. The Vikings have yet to have a 300-yard passing game.
- Neither the Vikings nor Eagles have allowed a 300-yard passer.
- The Vikings have three 100-yard receiving games – two from Stefon Diggs and one from Adam Thielen. The Eagles also have two – one from Jordan Matthews and one from Darren Sproles.
- Philadelphia has allowed one 100-yard receiver. Minnesota hasn’t allowed one yet.
- Neither the Vikings nor Eagles have had a 100-yard rusher this season.
- Philadelphia has allowed one 100-yard rusher. Minnesota has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher.
- Sam Bradford is 30th in pass attempts (125), 29th in completions (88), first in completion percentage (70.4), 29th in passing yards (990), tied for 22nd in TD passes (6), tied for first in interceptions (0) and second in passer rating (109.8).
- Wentz is 27th in pass attempts (157), 27th in completions (102), 16th in completion percentage (65.0), 25th in passing yards (1,186), tied for 17th in TD passes (7), tied for third in interceptions (1) and eighth in passer rating (99.9).
- Bradford is third in fourth-quarter passer rating at 119.3. Wentz is 31st at 70.5.
- Bradford is fourth in third-down passer rating at 106.3. Wentz is seventh at 98.5.
- Ryan Matthews is 28th in the league in rushing with 206 yards. Jerick McKinnon leads the Vikings with 174 yards, which ranks him 33rd.
- Diggs leads the Vikings with 25 receptions, which ties him for 44th in the league. The Eagles don’t have anyone in the top 50 – Matthews leads the team with 22 receptions.
- Diggs is 24th in receiving yards with 372. Matthews leads the Eagles with 344 yards, which ranks him 31st.
- Ryan Mathews is tied for 14th place in scoring among kickers with 24 points (four touchdowns). Kyle Rudolph is tied for 30th with 18 points (three touchdowns).
- Philadelphia’s Caleb Sturgis is tied for seventh in scoring among kickers with 49 points. Blair Walsh is tied for 22nd with 37 points.
- Diggs is 49th in the league in yards from scrimmage with 370 (372 receiving, minus-2 rushing). Nobody from the Eagles is in the top 50.
- Philadelphia’s Donnie Jones is 22nd in punting average at 44.3 yards. Jeff Locke is 25th with an average of 43.6 yards.
- Locke is 16th in net punting average at 39.9 yards. Jones is 24th at 38.2 yards.
- Marcus Sherels in third in the league in punt return average at 16.5 yards. Sproles is 10th with an average of 11.2 yards.
- There have been six punt return touchdowns in the NFL this season and Sherels has two of them.
- Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL in kickoff return average at 29.9 yards. No Eagle has returned enough kickoffs to qualify for the league lead.
- Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes and Philadelphia safety Rodney McLeod are both tied for sixth in the league in interceptions with two.
- Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison and Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox are all tied for 15th in the league in sacks with four each.
- Sendejo is tied for the league lead in defensive fumble recoveries with two.