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The 5 O'Clock Club: Game Day - Minnesota Vikings edition

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere...

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

The first word goes to Elliott Harrison from NFL.com

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Oh, boy -- this is a good game. The Vikings have been solid all season, riding a championship-level defense and a quarterback who won't give the game away. The Redskins have stayed afloat with gutsy quarterback play and timely -- if not dominant -- defense. Both teams also have made no excuses for injuries. At some point, Case Keenum is going to have to make plays to win the game for Minnesota. Speaking of, another Minnesota backup played in one of the biggest games in franchise history, in Washington, some 30 years ago. It was a game that carried major historical implications, too. Take a gander. But before you go, here is your weird note courtesy of @RealJackAndrade, who may or may not be binge-watching "Stranger Things": Kirk Cousins' career passer rating in November is 112.2, the NFL's highest in that month since he entered the league in 2012. I have no idea what that means. You're welcome.

What does Vegas think?

According to oddsshark:

The Minnesota Vikings are 6-2 SU on the year and sit atop the NFC North standings, but things are far from settled in the Gopher State. The Vikes are set to make an appearance in Landover, Maryland in Week 10 when they’ll collide with the Washington Redskins.

The biggest story in this one will be the man under center for the purple and gold. Case Keenum has led the charge for Minny in 2017 and has fared well, throwing for 1,610 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with only three interceptions. Sam Bradford, [is going on IR following consultation with Dr. Andrews about his knee].

Teddy Bridgewater has been activated to the Vikings’ 53-man roster and will make his return after a year-long recovery from knee surgery. It would be a stretch to see Bridgewater return to action right away, but it’s a promising sign to see him back in the fold.

Meanwhile, the Redskins have been one of the most confusing teams in the NFL this year. They narrowly beat the San Francisco 49ers before getting hammered by the Dallas Cowboys, but they’ve also topped the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks this year. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense will be in tough against one of the league’s best defenses, but at least they’ve proven they can rise to the occasion against good squads.

Washington has been a downright brutal bet at home, evidenced by the Redskins going 1-5 ATS in their last six appearances at FedExField.

Familiar foes

2010 Vikings 17 Redskins 13

2011 Vikings 33 Redskins 26

2012 Vikings 26 Redskins 38 (“Electrifying!”)

2013 Redskins 27 Vikings 34

2014 Redskins 26 Vikings 29

2016 Vikings 20 Redskins 26

  • Home team 4-2 (last 4 in a row)
  • Vikings lead 4-2 in these 6 games

Power Rankings (Vikings)

Ranked #6 by NFL.com

Love that the Vikings are flying well under the radar. Let them sneak up on everybody. I covered this in the "Closing Arguments" segment during the "NFL Power Rankings" show, but who's going to topple this group in the NFC North? While we're at it, which team in the NFC can Minnesota NOT take down? "I'd like the number zero for $500, Alex." The defense has been balling out since, well, Day 1. Remember what they did to the Saints in Week 1? (New Orleans was held to 19 points and 344 yards, both season lows.) The Vikes haven't given up more than 17 points since the Twins were still in it.

Ranked #4 by ESPN

Case Keenum has started the bulk of the games for the Vikings this season, and they've still jumped from middle of the pack to near the top in the rankings. Keenum deserves credit, but so does the defense, which has allowed the third-fewest points per game this season.

Ranked #6 by Bleacher Report

The Minnesota Vikings defense is special. As is the case in Jacksonville, Minnesota can lean on its defense, play through it and win games. Of course, this was the case last year too. What's different about this year's version of the Vikings, though, is the offense is also playing like a quality unit.

The offensive line is better than it was a year ago, and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is finding ways to create big plays—regardless of who is at quarterback. When Stefon Diggs is healthy and able to play alongside Adam Thielen, the offense can be as explosive as any in football.

With No. 12 out in Green Bay, the Vikings are the clear favorites in the NFC North. If the Lions don't get back on track, the Vikings may run away with the division.

Ranked #9 by Yahoo Sports

I’m surprised how often people have either discussed the possibility of Teddy Bridgewater starting or confirming that Case Keenum will start. This is really a debate? Keenum hasn’t been bad. Bridgewater hasn’t played since he hurt his knee in August of 2016 and we have no idea if that injury has had any long-term effect. It’s great that Bridgewater is apparently healthy enough to be the backup as soon as this week, and it’s a great story, but any notion that he can or should step into the starting job is weird.

The Coach

Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden know each other well, as they were both coordinators at Cincinnati together (Mike ran the defense and Jay ran the offense).

Zimmer’s time at Minnesota has been anything but smooth, with personal health problems (his eye) and injuries to key players (Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook, just to name a few). Zimmer has enjoyed a bit more success than Jay so far.

A strong argument could be made for Zimmer as coach of the year in at least one of the 3 12 seasons that he’s been the head man for the Vikings.

Zimmer consistently fields one of the most intimidating defensive fronts in the NFL.

The quarterback position

Preseason 2016

Coming off a 2015 season in which quarterback Teddy Bridgewater emerged as a budding star and the Vikes snapped the Packers’ string of four division titles, expectations were high. They had but one flaw. “I can still remember talking to [Minnesota GM] Rick [Spielman] before last season and saying, ‘Man, if Teddy goes down, we’re in trouble,’” Zimmer says. “ ‘We can’t lose Teddy.’”

The freak injury that felled Bridgewater during a preseason practice last August—leaving his left knee dislocated and nearly all of its connective tissue torn—was devastating. “I’ve never seen players so heartsick,” Zimmer says.

“The best way to describe it,” says Spielman, “is that all the air came out of the balloon. But Zimmer is never gonna be an excusemaker. And his attitude trickled down.“

“One of the first things I did was call Parcells,” says Zimmer. “He said, ‘Well, they’re not gonna cancel the games. You gotta figure it out.’”

Four days later the Vikings sent a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-rounder to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford. The five-year veteran quarterbacked Minnesota to a 5–0 start, but the team’s success was short-lived, and nearly a year later many of the tsunamis created by Bridgewater’s injury have yet to reach shore. It wasn’t just the draft picks they gave up; it was the additional $21 million ($25 million, including the roster bonus) they have had to spend for Bradford’s services. Zimmer makes it clear that he loves Bradford, who will hold the keys in 2017 while Bridgewater continues to heal, then he adds, “Something like [Bridgewater’s injury] affects you for years. Financially, draft-wise, everything. Everything.”

At the moment, the Vikings have 3 quality quarterbacks (plus Kyle Sloter):

  • Teddy Bridgewater appears to be returning to the team this week

So, how will the Vikings go about making [roster space for Bridgewater’s return]? Well, they’ve got a couple of options. Let’s take a look at them, in order of the likelihood I see them happening in.

Placing Sam Bradford on Injured Reserve

Even after all these weeks, nobody outside of Winter Park really seems to know what’s going on with Sam Bradford’s knee. The team pushed him out onto the field back in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and after less than a half of football decided he had no business being out there, so they replaced him with Case Keenum. Bradford hasn’t practiced since then, and every week we hear about how he’s “getting better,” but he continues to not practice and is apparently getting all sorts of alternative treatments on his knee as well.

[When] the Vikings ... place Bradford on injured reserve, he’d be gone for the rest of the regular season, as the league rules say he would have to be there for eight weeks before the team could potentially bring him back. But if he’s going to continue to not practice and not contribute to the team, there’s really no reason to keep him in a roster spot and keep crossing your fingers and hoping that he comes back. With the way that things are going right now, I think that this is the most likely scenario. Does it stink for Bradford? It sure does, but that’s just the way things go in the NFL sometimes.

  • Case Keenum has played very well in relief, going 4-2 in 6 starts for the Vikings this season. Keenum, 29 years old, is on a one-year contract for just the 2017 season with a cap hit of $1.9m. He will likely be able to parlay his excellent performance this season into a good contract — possibly as a starter -- somewhere in the NFL next season. Keenum has career earnings of just under $5m since 2013. Perhaps the Redskins should be scouting him as a potential ‘Plan B’ for Kirk Cousins?

A few easy-to-find statistics

Yards per game - 11th (Redskins 14th)

Total points & Points/game - 16th (Redskins 17th)

Turnover differential - 14th (+2) Redskins 21st (-2)

Yards per play - 15th (Redskins 14th)

Passing yards per game - 14th (Redskins 11th)

Passing TDs - 21st (Redskins 11th)

Sacks given up - 2nd (10) Redskins 18th (22)

Big plays (20+ yds) - 10th (Redskins 6th)

Rushing yards per game - 9th (Redskins 21st)

Rushing TDs - 10th (Redskins 13th)

Defensive yards given up p/game - 4th (Redskins 18th)

Defensive points given up p/game - 3rd (Redskins 24th)

Penalty yards - 11th (Redskins 23rd)

QB Pass yards p/game - 18th (230) Redskins - 8th (268.4)

Keenum - 7 TD / 3 INTs (Cousins 13 TD / 4 INTs)

Keenum - QBR 88.8 Cousins 102.0

A look at the first 8 games

  • Vikings - 5 home / 3 away (4-1 / 2-1)
  • Redskins - 4 home / 4 away (2-2 / 2-2)

Weekly Opponents

  1. Saints 6-2 Win
  2. Steelers 6-2 Loss
  3. Bucs 2-6 Win
  4. Lions 4-4 Loss
  5. Bears 3-5 Win
  6. Packers (without ARod) 4-4 Win
  7. Ravens 4-5 Win
  8. Browns 0-8 Win

Total No of Division leaders on schedule = 2 (1-1)

Combined Record of opponents: 29-36 44.6% (Redskins opps: 42-27 60.9%)

The Redskins may be able to start fast

The Skins have only allowed 16 first quarter points all season. The Vikings have only scored 16 first quarter points all season.

No matter how many times you tell ‘em, they don’t understand

The Vikings fans are convinced that TJ Clemmings is Trent Williams’ normal backup. They just can’t seem to get it into their heads that Williams & Moses are the starters, Nsekhe is the backup swing tackle, and Clemmings is the ‘emergency guy,’ just one step up from the practice squad.

Clemmings was inactive for the first 3 games of the season; that only changed because Nsekhe was injured in the Raiders game and had to have surgery.

Why do I bring it up? The Vikings fans have discussed Clemmings ad nauseum in their comments sections, and Clemmings was — surpisingly -- the topic of one of their 5 questions this week, as if they expected him to play again. I tried to clarify that Nsekhe is due back from surgery, but as late a Friday this week, a Daily Norseman writer was still reporting that if Williams couldn’t play, Clemmings would, with no mention of Ty Nsekhe:

Whether the Redskins’ left tackle Trent Williams can go or not will be huge. His backup is TJ Clemmings.

Sure, if Trent is out and Nsekhe’s not healthy, Clemmings might start, but that’s definitely not normal.

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Poll

Which position group scores the most TDs against the Vikings?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    WR
    (26 votes)
  • 13%
    TE
    (9 votes)
  • 33%
    RBs (CT counts here even if he lines up as a wideout)
    (23 votes)
  • 5%
    Defense (count the entire D as one group)
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Special Teams
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    Kirk as a runner (not counting his passes — only counting the guy with the ball in his hand in the end zone)
    (5 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which opponent has had the best cheerleaders so far this season?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Eagles
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    Rams
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Raiders
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    Chiefs
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    49ers
    (2 votes)
  • 24%
    Cowboys
    (17 votes)
  • 2%
    Seahawks
    (2 votes)
  • 43%
    Vikings
    (30 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now