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Bowen: Vikings Defense is NFL's Strongest Unit

Posted Oct 26, 2016

Heading into Week 8, a panel of ESPN Insiders debated on a number of topics, including which NFL team holds the league’s strongest unit.

Matt Bowen said he’d give the award to the Vikings defense, despite Minnesota suffering its first loss of the season at Philadelphia last Sunday. Bowen wrote:

This unit under [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer continues to create panic and turnovers. Through six games, the Vikings are holding opposing quarterbacks to a ridiculously low Total QBR (25.6), and Minnesota is tied with Seattle at the top of the NFL for points allowed per game (14.0). They have a dynamic mix of extremely smart coaching and versatile talent at all three levels of the field. That's tough to plan against.

Dan Graziano countered, saying he believes that Dallas’ offensive line is the NFL’s strongest unit.

It feels like every team is struggling up front, and not only are the Cowboys competent, they're consistently excellent. The advantage that gives them on a week-to-week basis, given how big an issue it is for so many other teams, makes them the most dominant unit right now.

Bowen and Graziano’s opinions will come head-to-head on Dec. 1 when the Vikings host the Cowboys for Thursday Night Football.

Vikings vying with Seahawks for top scoring defense

Minnesota’s defense has impressed in each of the team’s six games this season. Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press said the 2016 Vikings, with their defensive prowess, could be included in conversation with the Purple People Eaters era. He wrote:

Minnesota is tied for first in the NFL in scoring defense with Seattle and has taken over the league lead in total defense. The only times the Vikings have led in both categories were in 1969 and 1970, when they featured a legendary defensive line.

Thus far, the Vikings have allowed an average of just 14 points per game by their opponents.

If they end up winning the scoring defense crown, they will end of reign of Seattle, which last season became the first team since Cleveland in the 1950s to win it four straight years.

In total defense, Minnesota is giving up just [279.5] yards per game. Philadelphia [is fifth at 307.0]. The Eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10 last Sunday, but actually were outgained 282-239.

Krammer: Cutler should be no match for Vikings defense

The Bears earlier this week reported that quarterback Jay Cutler, previously sidelined with a thumb injury, will be ready to play against the Vikings in Chicago for Monday Night Football.

Cutler historically has solid numbers against the Vikings, but the Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer said Minnesota’s defense will be a tough challenge for the veteran quarterback. Krammer wrote:

The Vikings defense, which allowed 13 points in the season’s first loss at Philadelphia, has proven a difficult matchup for the NFL’s best quarterbacks. And Cutler, despite boasting a 6-1 record and average passer rating of 98.3 at Soldier Field against the Vikings, will have a tough time reviving these ailing Bears (1-6).

Cutler has made seven starts against the Vikings, and he tallied a trio of passing touchdowns in four of those games. Krammer said the Bears receiving corps has proven difficult for Minnesota to defend in the past, but he expects this week to be a story that swings more in the Vikings favor.

The Bears haven’t been the same through the air, save for the Cutler-to-[Alshon]-Jeffery connection, though even Jeffery has yet to score a touchdown. Through seven weeks, Chicago is the NFL’s worst scoring offense (15.9 points per game) after seeing the departure of tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte this offseason.