In 2008, the Minnesota Vikings finished 5th in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 184 rushing yards per game. Conversely, the team finished 25th in the league in passing with a paltry 145-yard-per-game average. Those feats led the Vikings to twelfth in the league in points--14th after adjusting for defensive points contributed.
The Vikings' 2008 numbers sufficed to win the NFC North and give the team a first-round playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The resulting loss evidenced a team strong in the rushing game and weak in the passing attack.
Five games into the 2009 NFL season, the Vikings are averaging 31 points per game--good for third in the league. And while that number is far superior to the 24 point average that the Vikings had in 2008, there are reasons for concern.
The Vikings established their 2008 numbers against teams with a combined record of 135 and 137--a nearly .500 winning percentage.
One-third of the way through the 2009 season, the Vikings have amassed their numbers against teams with a combined 7-17 record--a winning percentage of .292. And there is every reason to believe that the Vikings' first five opponents in 2009 will continue at this collective dismal pace.
If the quality of the opposition helps define a team's success, and it most assuredly does in the NFL, some perspective needs to be gained regarding the Vikings' early season offensive success. For the Vikings to reach the level of oppositional ineptitude last year that they have faced so far this year, they would have had to play the Detroit Lions an additional twenty times. That's twenty more games against a team that won zero games last season.
That's where the alarm bells start to go off somewhat. Though the Vikings have added quarterback Brett Favre, they have also added two rookies to their offensive line. Through five games, the problems have been muted by victory. But through those same five games, the Vikings, though third in the league in points scored, are not nearly as strong in underlying offensive categories.
In 2009, the Vikings have dropped to 11th in the league in rushing offense and nineteenth overall in yards gained from scrimmage. Favre's presence has contributed to a gain in passing yards, pushing the team from 25th overall to 20th overall, with a 13-yard-per-game increase.
But even the passing success of this year's team must be viewed in light of the opponents' .292 winning percentage.
All of which brings the question back to one upon which the Vikings' 2009 fortunes likely will turn--will the Vikings be able sufficiently to rectify their running-game issues to defeat stronger competition? The answer might well reveal itself today when the Vikings face the Baltimore Ravens--but even that might prove a bit of a canard.
The Ravens enter today's game with the league's fifth-rated offense and twelfth-rated defense in points scored. Against the run, the Ravens are number one in yards allowed. Against the pass, however, the Ravens are 20th.
The Ravens' numbers, too, are skewed by their less-than-stellar competition--teams with a combined winning percentage of .416. Given that their defensive weakness appears to be against the pass, and there is every reason to believe that the Vikings will attempt to exploit the Ravens' pass defense and settle for yet another week of sub-par rushing.
And that might leave until next week, when the Vikings face the Steelers, or until week sixteen against the New York Giants, a determination of where the Vikings stand this season.
Up Next: Post game.