The Vikings are glad to be back home this weekend against the Dolphins and are set for their first noon kickoff since Nov. 4.
The team has stressed throughout the week the importance of the final three regular-season games, especially after back-to-back tough losses at New England and at Seattle. John Holler of Viking Update recently wrote that Minnesota should be careful not to take Miami for granted.
Holler said the Dolphins are "one of those teams who tend to fly under the radar despite a 7-6 record that has them in the thick of the playoff hunt." He wrote:
Given their overall numbers, it's hard to imagine that they're in the position they are and have a better record than the Minnesota Vikings. Miami has the 29th-ranked offense (18th rushing, 27th passing). The offense is 30th in third-down conversions and 22nd in points scored. Defensively, the Dolphins are ranked 29th (29th vs. the run and 25th vs. the pass) and are 26th in points allowed.
Holler delved into personal stats, pointing out that Frank Gore is Miami's leading rusher with 708 yards, and nobody on the team has more than four rushing touchdowns. The Dolphins leader in receptions is Danny Amendola with 49, and Kenny Stills tops the team with 504 receiving yards. On the defensive side of the ball, no one has more than 5.0 sacks.
When you add up the sub-par numbers on both sides of the ball, not only is it hard to fathom that the team still has the opportunity to win 10 games this season, they are as anonymous as any team in the league.
Tannehill has been an up-and-down quarterback who alternately looks like a franchise guy and then has a game that makes people wonder if he will ever take the next step toward being a top-tier quarterback.
For many fans, when the Vikings face the Dolphins Sunday, they will be listening to the names being discussed on both sides of the ball for Miami and have a reaction akin to the movie line made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – "Who are those guys?"
Analytics types would say Miami should be closer to 3-10 than 7-6. When you statistically have the third- worst offense and the fourth-worst defense, it's hard to fathom that a team with those numbers would have a winning record. Yet, Miami is doing it somehow and, if those numbers continue to defy logic, the Vikings can't just automatically assume they're going to end their two-game losing streak with a blowout win over the Dolphins.
Kearse points to confidence as key to success
The Vikings have used Jayron Kearse in a number of roles this season. In addition to special teams duties, Kearse has lined up at safety and both inside and outside corner.
Kearse hasn't taken a bulk of responsibility as of late but is continuing to approach each game with confidence.
Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press spoke to Kearse this week.
"I have complete confidence in my abilities," Kearse told Mizutani. "Whether it's playing outside, playing in the nickel, or playing back at safety, I feel like I can be one of the top guys at whatever position I'm at. I try to carry that same mindset throughout the season. whatever position I'm at."
Kearse said a lack of confidence is "the main killer" of athletes who have talent.
"If they don't have the confidence, they might get beat, and then the confidence goes out the window," Kearse told Mizutani. "That's just something I have to continue to carry with me, and everything else will come to me."
In the meantime, he's been trying to make the most of his time on special teams, an area in which he carved out a niche during his first couple of seasons in the league.
Now the key is parlaying those opportunities into more sustained flashes of brilliance down the road.
"It's really about when I get the opportunity, I have to take full advantage of it," Kearse said. "I can't really sit and think about the times when I want to be out there and I'm not out there."
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Dolphins.
Difference maker in Vikings-Dolphins game could be venue
Nearly a year after the Vikings Minneapolis Miracle, the Dolphins are coming off their own "miracle" game that lifted them over the Patriots as time expired last week.
Miami could be riding some momentum, to be sure, but Greg Cote of the Miami Herald said the Vikings have the upper hand in Sunday's contest as the home team. Cote wrote:
The pick here tilts simply and heavily on venue. It did last week in our calling the Dolphins home upset of New England, and it does to the other extreme here. [The Dolphins] are 1-10 in [the] past 11 road games … while [the] Vikings are 10-2 in [their] past dozen at home. I'm not a slave to trends, but not blind to 'em, either.
Cote pointed to the coaching changes Minnesota made in replacing Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo with Kevin Stefanski – in an interim capacity – and said he expects to see more of running back Dalvin Cook.
Cote capped it off by saying the Vikings defense is better than the Patriots unit the Dolphins overcame last week.