The NFC North race is a tight one thus far, and a lot will be determined over the next month when multiple divisional matchups take place.
The NFC East has also been an interesting one to watch, with Washington (5-3) and Philadelphia (4-4) currently leading the way.
Jay Glazer, FOX NFL Sunday personality and contributor for The Athletic, was asked in his Week 9 mailbag about which NFC teams he anticipates “rising and falling” in the second half of the season. Glazer wrote:
I see the Vikings rising as long as Dalvin Cook is healthy. This team has had a lot of injuries to marquee players, not just bottom-half-of-the-roster players. Despite the rash of injuries, the Vikings are still right there in the thick of it.
In the NFC East, Glazer expects a “tough road ahead” for the Redskins, who also have been hit by a barrage of injuries.
Later on, Glazer was asked about the signing of Kirk Cousins. He said that Cousins brings “stability to a position that the Vikings sorely needed” and added that the quarterback “puts up numbers and is very well liked in the locker room.”
Coller: Vikings current d-line rotation what team ‘dreamed about’
The Vikings set a new franchise record on Sunday when the recorded 10 sacks of Matthew Stafford en route to a 24-9 defeat of the Lions.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com recently wrote that the stellar defensive line performance (save for one sack by CB Mackensie Alexander) wasn’t “random” or “purely a product of a lost quarterback or struggling offensive line.” Rather, Coller said, it was an illustration of Minnesota’s defensive line at full strength.
Coller said that the unit “has the capability to carry [the Vikings] to the top of the NFC North.” He wrote:
The return of [Everson] Griffen combined with development of Stephen Weatherly and unexpected early season addition of Tom Johnson have given the Vikings a defensive line rotation that mirrors the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
That was something the Vikings sought in the offseason.
Against the Lions, Weatherly spelled either Griffen or league-leading sacker Danielle Hunter for 31 total snaps and picked up four pressures, including one sack. This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. Filling in for Griffen, Weatherly was impressive. He totaled nine pressures between the Vikings key matchups with the Rams and Eagles in Weeks 4 and 5. Now he gives the Vikings an opportunity to have a fresh pass rusher coming off the bench and [ensure] that Griffen will not be worn down in the fourth quarter.
Coller also delved into the benefit of returning Johnson to the roster after he was released by the Seahawks. Coller said the Vikings “won the lottery” when they were able to bring back Johnson, who spent the 2014-17 seasons in Minnesota, and that the move has “quickly paid dividends.”
Last year Johnson played nearly 800 total snaps, 542 coming on the pass rush and added 34 pressures. During his time as a Viking, the 34-year-old has scored as high as an 11.0 percent pressure rate (2015). He’s sitting at 10.0 percent currently.
Coller explained that Johnson can help spell Sheldon Richardson or step in for Linval Joseph “on obvious pass-rush downs,” which allows Joseph to stay fresh. Looking ahead at the Vikings upcoming schedule, Coller stressed the importance of continuing strong defensive line play.
Minnesota’s next four games are against Mitch Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.
Through the Lens: Vikings-Lions
View exclusive images shot by the Vikings team photographers as Minnesota defeated the Detroit Lions on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Vikings rookie DT teaming up to support student-athletes
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith this season are once again supporting causes important to them by encouraging fans to pledge a certain donation amount per sack and tackle, respectively.
(Note: Kendricks’ “Sacktober” campaign concluded at the end of the month).
Rookie defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes is joining in on the fun, recently launching his own “Sacks for Kids” campaign. Holmes, who recorded his first career sack against the Jets, is teaming up with Option2Change, a nonprofit that works with youth of single-parent households. Holmes said:
Option2 holds a special place in my heart, because they work to create a society in which every young student-athlete, regardless of background, understands the importance of integrity, excelling academically, and having other options.
Only an extremely small percentage of high school athletes go on to play professionally, and I feel it is very important to spread the message that you do not have to be a professional athlete in order to be considered successful.
Individuals whose total pledge per sack or donation equals $50 or more will be entered to win a game-worn jersey signed by Holmes.