In a little less than two months ESPN NFL Insider KC Joyner has gone from outlining a case for the Vikings to make the playoffs to the point of saying they could be one three teams, along with the Dolphins and Giants "who could come out of nowhere."
Joyner noted past surprise party teams like the 1980 Oakland Raiders, 1981 San Francisco 49ers, 1999 St. Louis Rams and 2001 New England Patriots.
* (Note: The passing game metrics listed below include yards gained on penalties such as defensive pass interference and illegal contact.)*
"The last five years have possibly been the nadir of the Vikings franchise, as they've finished under .500 four times, which had never happened in any other such span in team history.
This all looks poised to change, as multiple signs point toward the Vikings becoming one of the NFL's up-and-coming teams.
The three things Joyner focused on in this post were Teddy Bridgewater's development, citing a 72.1 completion percentage that tied for the league lead in Weeks 13-17, along with a "0.5 percent bad decision rate (which measures how often a passer makes a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the opposing team)."
Joyner also believes the return of Adrian Peterson will be quite helpful. He cited that Jerick McKinnon ranked fifth in Joyner's "good blocking yards per attempt," which measures gains when a defense does not disrupt a rush attempt.
The addition of Mike Wallace and what his skills could mean to the Vikings vertical passing game was another reason.
*Wallace didn't impact Miami's vertical passing game as much as expected, but one thing he did do well was score touchdowns. Over the last two seasons, only 10 wide receivers tallied more receiving scores than Wallace's 15. Last year, the Vikings ranked tied for 19th in passing touchdowns to wide receivers (13). *
The Vikings have been asked at training camp about high expectations—and sometimes lower projections. Head Coach Mike Zimmer summed up his thoughts:
"I have high expectations. I know overall people are saying nice things, but our expectations are higher than anybody else's, and that's how it should be," Zimmer said. "I don't want my football team to have low expectations. I don't want them thinking that, 'we're not going to be any good' or 'man, I can't play,' or something like that. It wouldn't do us any good."
Kafka an entrepreneur
ESPN.com's Ben Goessling reported on the entrepreneurial spirit of Vikings reserve QB Mike Kafka, whose experiences of trying to keep his hands warm in high school and college near Chicago as led him to invent the Roo Outdoor hand warmer pouch:
*(Kafka) spent his afternoons researching materials, talking to distributors and vetting manufacturers, hoping there would eventually be a market for his project. Friends told him they thought they would use it for hunting, so Kafka developed a camouflage model with slots for shotgun shells. He found a manufacturer in Baltimore, and put up his own money to get the company -- which Kafka called Roo Outdoor -- off the ground. *
The pouch Kafka designed is lined with Polartec insulation, a dense, breathable fabric designed to wick away water and trap body heat as it lays flat against the wearer's body. It's selling for $65 on Roo Outdoor's website. "The inside and outside is water-resistant," Kafka said. "Everything on it is, in my eyes, the best we could put together."
Michael Rand of the Star Tribune with a look at Cordarrelle Patterson's development process and the philosophy current coaches are taking with him.
Need more about Patterson? 1500ESPN.com's Andrew Krammer also caught up with the receiver.