Thursday, October 30, 2014

National Friday League, Week 9

Vikings-Washington Preview
2014 Vikings
2014 Washington

People, I don't know if you're aware of this, but the Vikings have become a legitimate defense (and legitimate fantasy defense, if you're looking).

The Vikes rank 12th in the league allowing 21.6 points per game, and that includes allowing 30 to the Patriots and 42 to the Packers when turnovers led to points and short fields for the opponents. The Vikes rank 8th in yards allowed and 6th in first downs allowed. They have 25 sacks, which puts them in a tie for 2nd in the league.

The Vikings are basically doing everything on defense you could want right now. They have better players than they had last year, and they are better coached.

Whether the offense every catches up to support this effective defense is really up to the offensive line. A lot of things that have looked bad so far will suddenly look a lot better if the Vikes can rely on good pass blocking. Washington has a decent pass rush, but it's worth noting that opposing QBs have thrown for 17 TDs and 3 INTs vs. Washington this year, and Washington is pretty average against the run. Viking wide receivers actually showed ability to get open last week, and maybe they can keep that coming.

Other Interesting Games This Week
Week 9 Games
Buccaneers-Browns. Any Browns game is interesting this year because they might be in playoff contention, but they also showed they can lose to anybody.

Cardinals-Cowboys.

Eagles-Texans.

Chargers-Dolphins.

Broncos-Patriots. The Broncos have become the most interesting fantasy team in the league. Either you have Broncos on your fantasy team, or your close competitors have Broncos on their fantasy teams, or both. And this team is getting yards and touchdowns like crazy, so every time they get to the red zone you basically wonder who is going to get the 6. Always love when they are televised.

Steelers-Ravens. This game is interesting (not interesting enough to stop me from grading papers in the evening after watching six straight hours of football first, but interesting).

Is there a playoff spot available to strive toward?
The problem if you look at the standings is pretty obvious. The NFC South division winner gets a playoff spot, and in the rest of the NFC there are currently seven teams over .500 contending for five playoff spots. A lot has to go right for the Vikings to find themselves in contention, aside from greatly improved play by the Vikings themselves! But hope doesn't go away until mathematical elimination, people.

Fantasy Box: Against Selling High
If you are lucky (or good), you will have drafted players who are overperforming their draft price and overperforming expectations. You may face a temptation, or get a recommendation, to trade the player while his stock is high. You might fear that the success has been temporary, that circumstances will change, that injuries will come and/or performances will plummet.

But you believed in the player when you drafted him. If you drafted a player, it's because you thought he'd be a strong performer this season. If so far you are right about that, don't ditch the player you were right about. Quite frequently surprise players emerge during the first half of the season and perform strongly throughout the whole season. At this halfway point of the year, a player's performance during the first half of the season is a far, far, far better indicator of that player's performance the rest of the year than what people thought in July.

If you were right about a player--if you believed a player would perform well even if there were many others doubting the player would perform well--then you have benefited so far. You were right--now isn't the time to stop trusting yourself.

But if you were wrong about a player that you never really were thrilled about but you acquired through circumstance, and you're disappointed in the performance, screw it. Dump when you can.

Weekend
Halloween is a great holiday, worth stretching out into a big long season of candy, pumpkins, costumes, and scary things. Enjoy the culmination, people.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stats say Ted Bridgewater sucks so far. Should we be worried?

Ted Bridgewater's debut as the Vikings starting quarterback was a blast. Since then? He's sort of been in bust mode.

Yep. I know it's only been four games. I know he's only a 21-year-old rookie. I know his offensive line can't protect him. I know he's playing without Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph. And I know his receivers have had trouble getting open some times and dropped a lot of passes. But take all of that away, and ignore our collective hopes and dreams for Bridgewater that color our assessments of him, and numerous statistics and metrics show he hasn't played very well.

Pro Football Reference has the NFL's passing statistics for QBs here. Of the first 33 guys listed, Bridgewater has started fewer games than all but five of them. So taking out the passing stats that are impacted most by games played (passing yards, touchdown passes, and interceptions), here is where Bridgewater ranks in some key categories:

1. Yards per pass attempt: 28th (6.8)
2. Adjusted yards per pass attempt: 31st (5.6)
3. Interception %: 29th (3.2%)
4. Touchdown %: 33rd (1.3%)
5. Completion %: 27th (60%)
6. Sack %: 32nd (9.4%)*
* (How much of this sad stat is Bridgewater's fault and how much of it is the Vikings offensive line's fault? My view is most of the blame goes to the O-line, which has been terrible in pass blocking.)

Those are some pretty bad numbers. But do they tell the entire story? How do the statistical eggheads at Football Outsiders rank Bridgewater?

As it turns out, not very well. (You can find the site's QB rankings here.) In their two key statistical categories for QBs - DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement), Bridgewater's grades are extremely poor, and so is his QBR ranking, a metric created by ESPN Stats & Information.

1. DVOA: 34th (-43.5%)
2. DYAR: 32nd (-345)
3. QBR: 31st (36.7)     

All of these numbers and rankings tell a tale of woe about the state of Bridgewater's play so far. He's down there with the likes of Geno Smith, Blake Bortles, EJ Manuel, and Jake Locker.

But should Vikings fans be freaking out that Bridgewater's stat lines have been so bad? Is he going to be Christian Ponder - The Sequel?

I'm mildly concerned, but that's all. Generally, I feel good about Bridgewater's future. The reasons for this, I'll admit, are subjective. One thing I've been impressed with in Bridgewater's play is his calmness in the pocket. He doesn't panic back there. He knows how to move in the pocket to buy himself more time, and because he gives himself more time, he can look for other receiving options if his main one is covered. His accuracy has been spotty at times - and it's been brutal on deep throws - but if he gets better protection from his offensive line and as he gets more familiar with his receivers, tight ends and running backs, I think his pocket presence will allow him to succeed. Don't forget Bridgewater improved every year he was at Lousiville. Why wouldn't he do the same during the early stages of his pro career?

Will that improvement happen quickly enough that Bridgewater will go from brutal to beastly this season? I wouldn't wager large sums of cash on it, but the case of Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson, and what he did during his rookie season, is encouraging.

It's funny what you remember - or think you remember. And my memory of Wilson's 2012 season was that he played lights out from the get-go. But looking at his game logs from 2012, Wilson wasn't all that shit hot early in the season.

He completed 60 % of his passes his first 4 starts - the same as Bridgewater. He only averaged 149 passing yards over those 4 starts and never threw for more than 160 - Bridgewater's already thrown for 317 and 241. Over his first 4 starts, Wilson tossed 4 TD passes and 4 INTs - compared to Bridgewater's 2 and 5, respectively. The Seahawks went 2-2 in those first 4 starts. The Vikings have gone 2-2 in Bridgewater's 4 starts. Really, how much better was Wilson than Bridgewater at the same time in their respective careers. Russell Wilson didn't become Russell Wilson until the Seahawks eighth game of 2012, when he and Seattle got on a big roll, went 7-2 over their final 9 games and made the playoffs.

I'm not expecting the same thing to happen to Bridgewater and the Vikings. But neither am I going to freak out or quickly pass judgment on him after 4 mostly miserable starts.     

Monday, October 27, 2014

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Grumpy Vikings fan edition

Like Pacifist Viking, I enjoy a Vikings win as much as as the next rube.

But you can't be a Vikings fan without finding something to complain about. Even when the team wins. So here are some grumpy thoughts from the win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

1. Week after week I watch punters consistently pin opponents deep in their own end with kicks downed inside the 20. I've noticed these punters hold the ball a certain way so that when they kick it, the ball has some sort of backspin that - more often than not - causes the ball to bounce backward instead of forward, which keeps the punted ball away from the end zone and eliminates the possibility of a touchback.

I'm grumpy today because Jeff Locke has not mastered this skill. Locke has a nice leg, but punting is about more than distance. It's about touch and giving your team field position. Against Tampa Bay, Locke had three punts - two in the second quarter and one in the third quarter - where he was punting from roughly midfield. Each time his punts landed in Tampa's end zone and were not downed inside the 20. It's fair to note that Locke also had three from about the same field position that were downed inside the 20. But is 50 per cent a good success rate on these kicks? This is a subjective observation on my part, but it seems like Locke does this all the time. His punts produce too many touchbacks on kicks that need to be downed inside the opponent's 20 by the Vikings. And for a team that looks like it's going to win this season with defense and playing field position (when it does win), this is one of those areas where the Vikings can't have their punter fucking up regularly.

2. Let me be clear - I'm OK with Matt Asiata as the backup running back right now. But I was not OK with the decision to insert Asiata in favor of Jerick McKinnon with 2:29 left in the third quarter and the Vikings up 10-0 and starting a drive at their own seven yard line. I think I know what the Vikings were thinking here - they wanted the bigger Asiata to provide some tough inside running as they were backed up at their goal line and five of McKinnon's 14 carries in the game at that point (he ended up with 16 carries) had gone for no gain or negative yardage.   

The problem is that McKinnon has shown he can gain the tough yards as well. He's also much more likely to break off explosive plays in the running game than Asiata (McKinnon has three runs of 20 or more yards in 76 carries. Asiata has none in 74 carries). So what were the rewards that resulted from using Asiata in this situation? He was stuffed for no gain on first-and-10, lost five yards on a second-and-10 carry, then gained seven yards on a third-and-15 draw play that had no shot of gaining a first down. The Vikes were then forced to punt from their seven yard line, which is right where the drive began. The Bucs got the ball at their 49 yard line after the punt and proceeded to use the short field to drive for a field goal - Tampa's first points of the game. This seemed to wake up the Bucs offense and they scored 10 more points on their next two drives (you know this already) and took a 13-10 lead.

I'm grumpy about this because at a critical juncture in the game where the Vikes needed to make use of their best offensive players to at least gain a few first downs and flip field position on Tampa Bay, they chose to keep McKinnon off the field. It was a decision that would have made Bill Musgrave proud.

3. Ted Bridgewater is not our quarterback messiah - yet. He's 21 and making a lot of the typical mistakes we've seen rookie QBs (good and bad) make since the beginning of time. However, one problem area for him has been mystifying - he keeps missing badly on his deep throws. This was a problem for him at Louisville and it's been a problem in his four starts with Minnesota. As an example, early in the fourth quarter at the Bucs 41 yard line with the Vikes nursing a 10-3 lead, Bridgewater throws a bomb down the left sideline to Charles Johnson. Johnson had his man beat for a touchdown that puts the Vikes up 16-3 and probably ices the game away. One problem - Bridgewater overthrows Johnson. We saw the same thing a week earlier against Buffalo on a throw down the middle to Cordarrelle Patterson late in that game, and we saw it when he overthrew a wide open (and I mean wide open) Jarius Wright against Atlanta. Bridgewater isn't completing these throws.

There are only a handful of these deep throws per game, but what makes me grumpy is they are missed opportunities. If Bridgewater could complete even one of them per game, they would likely result in more points for an offense that is really struggling to score.I would think improving accuracy on deep throws is a skill that can be improved with better coaching, drill work and repetition. Yet Bridgewater continues to struggle with them.

I'm cutting Bridgewater slack in this area because, well, he's only four starts into his NFL career and it's way too early to be upset about this stuff or to think he'll never get better at them. But that doesn't mean I can't get grumpy about it.

* Kick Ass Blog programming note: Tomorrow I'll be bring you my "Happy Vikings fan" shtick. I promise.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 19, Buccaneers 13

Vikings-Buccaneers Box Score (ESPN)

The Legend Begins?

One first round pick gets the ball at the 20 yard line with about two minutes left, down by three. He has to lead the offense to points. Like a lot of his games, it's been a struggle: he's under constant harassment. And he completes the passes, one after the other, to get the team into easy field goal range. Overtime.

The other first round pick is a linebacker. He's once again played a solid, effective game. After the opponent wins the toss to get the ball first in overtime, he's there to help the defense stop the opponent from scoring. And on the opponent's first play, he forces a fumble, picks up the fumble, and then runs it back for a touchdown to win the game.

Teddy Bridgewater is hardly a perfect player right now, but he's been working hard under regular pressure to scramble to deliver passes before getting sacked, and/or delivering a pass as he gets hit. He's taking his lumps and making mistakes (the last drive was almost ended with a near interception), but he also made plays to help the team score necessary points.

Anthony Barr is far better at his position right now than Bridgewater is at his. The Viking defense has been downright good in recent weeks, and Barr has been a major factor in that. He's effective against the pass and the run, and his position allows him to make plays in places all over the field. And today he made the play to win the game.

If all goes according to plan, this won't be the last day that Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr make the necessary plays to help the Vikings win a football game late. If all goes according to plans, this is going to still be happening a decade from now, and it's going to be happening in playoff games.

Everson Griffen
Before the last two minutes, I would have said the competition for best player on the field was between Lavonte David and Everson Griffen, with David getting a slight edge for just how many times he stopped a play cold before it could start. But Griffen was a dominant player today, the best pass rusher for a team that was constantly hitting and disrupting and hurrying and sacking Mike Glennon. He made plays against the run and against the pass. The Vikes have been getting good performances from the defensive linemen (Sharrif Floyd!), and Griffen has consistently been their most effective defensive lineman. Re-signing him before the season is looking like a really smart move.

Skol!
It's not too late in the season for me to get that physical tension in the stomach during a game, and it's not too late in the season for me to jump up and yell things in joy. Who knows where the Vikings' season goes from here, but right now it's fun to watch them win.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dear Lovie Smith, please play Josh McCown on Sunday against the Vikings

What follows is a statement I don't know to be true, but I'm 99.9999999999999999999999999999999 sure that it is: Lovie Smith does not read this blog.

But if he did, I'd suggest to him he's kind of nuts to even be considering starting Josh McCown against the Vikings on Sunday. Smith's been a bit coy about the issue this week (NFL head coaches are like that), but it does look like second-year quarterback Mike Glennon will get the start.

I wish Smith would decide otherwise, however, and go back to the guy he handpicked to be his starter in Tampa Bay - McCown.

Lookit, McCown stinks, which is why I want Smith to start him against a Vikings team that needs all the breaks it can get. In two games-and-a-bit this season before he hurt his thumb, McCown never threw for more than 183 yards and tossed four interceptions to go with just two touchdown passes. Oh, and he was sacked on 6.8 per cent of his dropbacks as well. 

His replacement, Glennon, has thrown for over 300 yards in two of his three starts and managed seven touchdown passes while being intercepted three times and sacked on 6 per cent of his dropbacks.The only area where McCown has been better than Glennon is completion percentage, where McCown has completed 63.2 per cent of his passes compared to Glennon's completion percentage of 57 per cent.

The Bucs scored 27 and 31 points, respectively, in Glennon's first two starts (the wheels fell off badly against Baltimore, however. The Bucs only managed 17 points in that drubbing). In McCown's three starts, Tampa Bay scored 14 points twice and 17 once. They lost all 3 games.

Glennon is not Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees - QBs the Vikings have also faced this year. But he appears to be significantly better than McCown. And with the Vikings struggling to score points themselves these days, and having last won in Tampa Bay in 1997, it sure would be nice if McCown was behind center on Sunday, getting sacked and intercepted with regularity.

I'm worried Glennon might be able to put up enough points to beat a Vikings team that's 1-10-1 in its last 12 road games. And if he plays well enough that the Bucs score like they did in their win against Pittsburgh (27 points) and their close loss to the Saints (31 points), Minnesota's 30th ranked scoring offense has no shot of keeping up. 

Call me a pessimist if you like. I think this organization has earned it from me of late.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

National Friday League: Week 8

Vikings-Buccaneers Preview
'14 Vikings
'14 Buccaneers

A really high number of disappointing Viking games have come against the Buccaneers. Over the years, going back to when they were in the NFC Central with us, it seems frequent that when expectations were raised and the Vikes seemed poised to take a major step, they could be counted on to stumble against a seemingly far inferior Tampa team. Sometimes that disappointing loss was just the first indication the Vikings weren't as good as we thought or hoped. In 1994, what were the 7-4 Vikes doing losing to the 2-9 Bucs at home? In 2012, how'd the 5-2 Vikes get run off their own field by the 2-4 Bucs? Do you remember in '99 when the Vikes had won five straight games with Jeff George at quarterback and seemed poised to claim the division again before losing to the eventual division winner Buccaneers? Weren't the '05 Vikes supposed to have some sort of Super Bowl aspirations before they lost their home opener to the Bucs? Did you forget where the Vikes lost their only regular season game in '98? I hate seeing the Buccaneers play against the Vikings almost as much as I hate seeing the Vikings play at Soldier Field.

So there's your proverbial silver lining from last week's defeat which featured giving up a 4th and 20 conversion (Chad Greenway wasn't ready when the play started!) and a last second touchdown. Had the Vikings won, they'd be 3-4, and we'd be thinking about beating the lowly one-win Bucs to get to .500 and set ourselves up for a playoff run. And then the Vikings would zombie walk their way around the field and we'd be pissed off.

Teddy Bridgewater's flaws
Teddy Bridgewater has shown a tendency to throw short passes pretty hard, and a tendency to put air under some sideline throws that appear to require more zip. The first problem is probably a matter of experience: Bridgewater will learn to put touch on some of those throws to running backs so they can adjust to a ball that's not in the air long and the play can develop. The second problem is more troubling: is it a sign of limited arm strength? Can he throw the ball hard from the pocket to the sideline? That's a pretty essential skill for a pro quarterback. We'll see. Obviously great quarterbacks can find ways to make plays even with such limitations, and it may not in fact be a limitation.

Other Interesting Games
Week 8 Games

Chargers-Broncos.

Eagles-Cardinals.

Colts-Steelers.

Intent
A couple of NFL stories illustrate the way people judge themselves, and expect to be judged, not by their actions or the consequences of their actions, but by their intent.

Daniel Snyder and defenders of Washington's team nickname insist that they are not trying to be offensive. It does not matter that you show evidence that their name is an historical racist slur. It does not matter how many Native Americans insist that they are offended by the name, that they find it personally hurtful. To Snyder, he doesn't intend to give offense, so how can anybody take offense? He feels his support for the name is pure of heart: he (and the name's defenders) talk frequently of "honor' and "respect." Since their intent isn't to be offensive, it is practically impossible to convince them that the effect is offensive.

And so, too, does Adrian Peterson rely on his intent when insisting he is not a child abuser. He admits what he did. There has really been no dispute about Peterson's actions. Furthermore, the consequences of his actions are visible, and there does not seem to be any dispute about those consequences. But since he didn't intend to abuse a child, he does not seem to see that he did abuse a child. Peterson can't see himself as an abuser of children (who can?), and so to him his actions and their consequences cannot possibly be child abuse.

This seems to be a general psychological truth: individuals tend to judge themselves based on their intent (and are willing to see their intentions in the best possible light), and to judge others based on their actions (and can be capable of assuming the worst of others' intent). Consider your attitude while driving. Let me assume that you occasionally make a mistake while driving. When you do, though, you know what you were seeing and what you were trying to do. You might think "Oh, sorry, I just had to get over there" or "Oh, I was attentive to the cars around me and didn't notice that sign" or "I've never driven here before and I'm a little lost and trying to figure out where I'm going, sorry everybody" or even "Oops, I'm doing my best and trying my best but I just messed up there." Now, let me ask: is that your attitude when another driver screws up? Do you calmly assume, "Oh, that guy must have have really needed to get into this lane quickly" or "Oh, I guess I was in her blind spot, at least I saw her" or "Oh, he probably got stressed because he doesn't know where he was going"? Or do you think, "Jackass!" Do you holler, from inside your car, "Schmohawk!" Do you ever mutter "Get off the road, you stupid ass" or "What in the hell are you doing?" or "Oh God, why would you do that? Are you a moron?"?

Some people think who you are when nobody is watching is who you really are. I don't. I'm a lapsed existentialist, but I can't forget that Jean-Paul Sartre would insist that you are defined by your actions. Existence precedes essence: what you do takes precedence over what you think of yourself inside, or even why you do what you do.

A really good idea
On his recent B.S. Report podcast, Bill Simmons came up with a remarkably simple way to assess NFL teams. He said there are essentially three kinds of games: legitimate wins, legitimate losses, and games that could go either way. He tallies each team's record according to those categories.

This strikes me as simple and effective. Team efficiency ratings like Football Outsiders exclude wins and losses and adjust for opponents. Simmons' system accounts only for performance at winning, losing, or playing close, and excludes attention to opponents, but I suspect it tells us something about the teams.

The Vikings' record, then: 2 legit wins, 4 legit losses, and 1 either way game. Right now the Vikes pretty clearly are what their record says they are. I'm still optimistic about the trajectory of the defense, though: the rest of the season could go a lot of different ways.

Fantasy Box (or, Narcissism and Me)
1. To extend what I wrote about last week, let me articulate my fantasy philosophy for the midpoint of the season:

Prepare yourself to get lucky.

That's not contradictory. You may have to get lucky to win a championship, but you can put yourself in a position to benefit from luck. And that means as we approach the midpoint of the season, having flier running backs on your bench is even more crucial than drafting flier running backs. Every year there are running backs who break out during the second half of the season, and running back is still a high-injury position. I say do what you can to muddle through byes, and then clutter your entire bench with anybody who, if things break just right, could be fantasy breakouts.

And here too paying attention counts. I listen to ESPN's Fantasy Focus and Fantasy Underground podcast while I'm doing various household tasks, and Matthew Berry reminded me that Tampa Bay running back Charles Sims is returning from IR very soon. I picked him up in two leagues. Will he become start-worthy? Probably not. But there is opportunity there, and stashing him on my bench leaves me prepared to get lucky if he does break out. And if Charles Sims helps me this season, it will be because I was listening to a podcast while cooking my family supper. If he doesn't, who cares?

2. Because masochism and fantasy football are synonymous, I'm once again streaming defenses in my auction league. This has become a detestable task: examining stats like sacks and points allowed for a mostly random position, trying to guess which offenses are bad enough to chase matchups, and Oh God I'm already sick of this.

But why am I doing this work? I'm a working father with fulfilling hobbies. For whatever reason, all the rankers at ESPN and Yahoo! have the Dallas Cowboys ranked as this week's #7 defense or higher. I don't understand it. I don't trust it. But why am I going to put on a horsehair shirt trying to decide whether to start the Viking defense against the Bucs? Thanks for doing the work, fellows!

Well, the Cowboy D is on my roster, anyway, along with the Viking D. I've switched the starter about seven times already, and expect to change them seven times seventy times before Sunday. Fantasy masochism is a hard habit to break.

3. Demaryius Thomas is my Lex Luthor. He always seems to be on the roster of a team I'm competing hard against, and I never ever have him on my roster. And of course I always have other Broncos on my team that I'd rather see score. Whenever I watch the Broncos it seems like Thomas is always uncovered and can just skip all around the open field. Goddamit, Manning, throw the ball to somebody else. Hand the ball to Ronnie freaking Hillman when you get inside the five, maybe.

Weekend
I'm working on watching 10-13 Netflix horror movies during October (if it's not on Netflix streaming, it doesn't exist). I've seen scary movies, terrible movies, some that were both, even an offensive movie. I'm starting to feel really jittery in the dark, but if I start getting scared of day ghosts, my time spent running trails in the woods is going to get really creepy. "Fear cuts deeper than swords" is my new mantra.

Have a good weekend everybody. Watch Saturday Night Live: it's fun to watch. And play something for fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A numbers-filled look at the 2014 Minnesota Vikings

Jason Winter, who pops up at Kick Ass Blog now and again as a guest contributor (his last post was about freaking Matt Asiata!), has sent in another column. Today, Jason has a numbers-filled Vikings post for you. Take it away, Jason.

By Jason Winter

About that offense...

Yeah, being 2-5 sucks. Yeah, the offense has usually looked bad. Yeah, Teddy Bridgewater doesn't look like a whole lot better than, say, Christian Ponder.

I'm not here to make excuses, but I am here to provide a little context. I present to you the following stats, with little to no explanation. Draw your own conclusions.

=====

Last year, Vikings running backs averaged 107 rushing yards per game. Adrian Peterson started 14 games.

This year, Vikings running backs are averaging 94 rushing yards per game. Adrian Peterson started one game.

If this holds, it means that Adrian Peterson was worth about 13 extra rushing yards per game, and we were paying him about $14 million per season to provide those yards. Is that really worth it? Should any running back be paid $14 million in today's NFL? Should the Vikings trade him if they can get any value whatsoever?

=====

Here are the Vikings' opponents' defenses by points scored/game rank, and the points the Vikings scored against them:

St. Louis: 31st, 34
New England: 12th, 7
New Orleans: 28th, 9
* Atlanta: 30th, 41
Green Bay: 9th, 10
* Detroit: 2nd, 3
* Buffalo: 8th, 16

Obviously, some of a team's defensive rank has to do with how the Vikings did against them, but after six or seven games played per team, the effects of one team are minimal.

Games marked with a * are the ones Teddy Bridgewater started. In other words, he and the offense looked great against a bad defense and lousy against two good defenses. Overall the team has faced three top-10 defenses in its last three games and looked bad against all three. In fact, the New Orleans game aside, every game has played to type considering the defense being faced.

Here's the rest of the Vikings' schedule and their opponents' points allowed ranks:

Tampa Bay: 32nd
Washington: 24th
Chicago: 22nd
Green Bay: 9th
Carolina: 29th
NY Jets: 26th
Detroit: 2nd
Miami: 15th
Chicago: 22nd

Don't be surprised if the offense suddenly “figures it out” the rest of the season.

=====

That said... Teddy Bridgewater's TD pass to Cordarrelle Patterson on Sunday was the Vikings' first TD pass since the Matt Cassel-Matt Asiata connection in the first quarter of the New England game. The Vikings went 21 quarters, or more than five full games, without a TD pass.

The Vikings have 4 TD passes on the season, through seven games. There have been 10 instances of a quarterback throwing 4 TDs or more in a single game this season.

=====

And, just for fun, in the wake of the Percy Harvin trade ...

If we treat the “former Vikings going to the Seahawks” trend as starting with Steve Hutchinson's “poison pill” contract, here's the Approximate Value (a Pro-Football-Reference metric that lets you compare players of all positions) of Hutchinson as a Viking and every other significant Viking who since went to Seattle:

Hutchinson: 67
TOTAL: 67

Nate Burleson: 17
Sidney Rice: 15
Heath Farwell: 4
Tarvaris Jackson: 10*
Percy Harvin: 0*
Kevin Williams: 0*
Ryan Longwell: 0
Antoine Winfield: 0
TOTAL: 46

* PFR hasn't computed AVs for players in 2014. That said, it would be hard to imagine Harvin/Williams/Jackson being worth more than a couple points total this season.

Also, counting the playoffs, Harvin played in 8 games for the Seahawks in 2013-14 and accumulated 860 total all-purpose yards, 107.5 per game. Over that same time frame, Cordarrelle Patterson played in 23 games for the Vikings and managed 2,724 AP yards, 118.4 per game.

Yeah, yeah, Seattle has a ring and all. But let's not get jealous the next time Seattle signs one of our “stars.”