The Vikings are just a quarter of the way through the season. But a lot has happened, plus there's a lot more on the way. The 2015 Vikings are not short on talkers.
So, here's another installment of Two-Point Conversations, a vikings.com segment that tasks Mike Wobschall (@wobby) and Craig Peters (@pcraigers) with three topics on which to make a point in 200 words or less, then asks you to weigh-in on a question about each topic.
Is the Vikings bye week coming at a good time or a bad time?
@wobby:You can make a list of pros and cons for a bye week regardless of where it falls on your schedule. The best approach is to identify the pros and focus on them so you can use the bye week to your advantage as much as possible. Maybe a week off after nine games (five preseason, four regular season) and before the final 12 is well-timed for the Vikings, but with the way the Vikings are playing right now it may have been beneficial to have played this Sunday. After a rough season opener in San Francisco, the Vikings are playing an aggressive, competitive and physical brand of football right now. They've won two out of three and they played well enough to beat any team last week in Denver but just made one too many mistakes to come away victorious. I have no doubts Mike Zimmer and Co. can recapture this momentum coming out of their Week 5 bye, but right now the Vikings are playing well and would've been favorites this week versus all but maybe one of their remaining home opponents this week.
@pcraigers:It's funny how an early bye week like this caused me to sigh in slight angst when the schedule was first announced in April, but in hindsight, I think this is a great time for the Vikings to have their off-week of rest. Coaches likely have enough film to effectively self-scout and hone in on areas where the Vikings can capitalize or improve in a stretch of nine games that will end at Arizona on Thursday Night Football before a "mini-bye" that precedes the final weeks three of the regular season. Another benefit is that the bye week counts toward the waiting period for Josh Robinson (six-week minimum on physically unable to perform list) and John Sullivan (eight-week minimum on reserve/injured — designated to return list). The Vikings also went from having two players on the injury report before the Chargers game to seven before the Broncos game. Minnesota was without starters Charles Johnson and Andrew Sendejo in Denver, where Jarius Wright also was limited. Teams are not required to release an injury report during their bye weeks.
Which post-bye week game do you have circled on your calendar?
@pcraigers:Since I'm not a coach, I won't lean on "coachspeak" to say, "Kansas City because it's the next one." Even though the Chiefs are a formidable team with all three of their losses at the hands of unbeaten teams, I'll draw a vertical oval — or a really bad circle — around Oct. 25 at Detroit and Nov. 1 at Chicago. The Vikings controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense against the Lions in Week 2, and Detroit will seek revenge for the wire-to-wire win by the Vikings in trying to climb out of its 0-4 hole after making the playoffs last season. The Bears are minus-57 in net points through four games of a defensive re-build, but they have Pro Bowl talent on offense. Plus, I learned last season about the vortex that seems to exist above or around Soldier Field, where the Vikings last won in 2007 in large part to 224 rushing yards by Adrian Peterson in his sixth NFL game. Collecting a few road wins must happen for a team to reach its goal of double-digit victories, and doing so in the division would be even better.
@wobby:Sunday, November 22, home versus Green Bay. The road to NFC North supremacy goes through Green Bay, and the Vikings get their first of two cracks at the defending division champions at home. There are a lot of important games leading up to the Vikings Week 11 showdown with their border rivals, and this team can't take the liberty of overlooking anyone. But if the Vikings come out on the right end of most of those, then the home game against Green Bay will have a lot on the line. This game will be one of those "barometer games" that will tell the Vikings exactly where they stand relative to where they want to eventually end up.
Should Mike Zimmer be happy or grumpy with his team through the first four games?
@wobby:Yes. Can that be my answer? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the vibe I get from Coach Zimmer. After a letdown in Week 1, the Vikings have turned things around and are playing the way Zimmer wants them to play. From that standpoint, he should be pleased with his team. But a big part of the reason the Vikings were able to author such a staunch turnaround after losing to the 49ers in Week 1 is the tough-love approach of their head coach – a coach who demands his team strives for perfection and refuses to allow a moral victory mentality to seep in. So from that standpoint, maybe Coach Zimmer should maintain a sense of grumpiness. At the end of the day, none of us know how to handle the team as well as Zimmer, so we'll defer to him on what mindset and demeanor is the best to take. Through four games, though, only four NFC teams have a better record than the Vikings and the Vikings play a combined four games against those four teams. There is a lot of football left.
@pcraigers:I'll allow that response, take your last sentence and counter with "no" because it is too early to be definitively either. One thing that's for sure is preventing performances like the one from Carlos Hyde in Week 1 will be conducive to more Dr. Jekyll in the final three quarters of the season. Zimmer said the shortened time leading up to Week 2 gave him less time to be grumpy because there was a lot of work to do. His messaging this week, after his team showed traits he loves like tough resiliency against a favored opponent, was the performance was pretty good but he believes the team can be better. In addition to Xs and Os, it's paramount for head coaches to know how to get the best outputs from 53 individuals and blend them into a collective team force. The Vikings are one of 11 NFL teams that are 2-2 and have the opportunity to write the rest of their 2015 novel.