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After watching the rest of the NFC North play in Week 10, what is your outlook for the Vikings over the last seven games? Do we have a shot at the division or the playoffs? -- Adam M. Los Angeles, CA
Unfortunately, the Vikings didn't get any help in the division on Sunday with the two teams ahead of them winning – Detroit over Miami and Green Bay over Chicago. Sitting two wins behind Green Bay and three wins behind Detroit in the division standings and with a loss already to both teams, it's hard to do anything but take the rest of the season one week at a time to see what happens. Yes, the Vikings have a shot at both the division and the playoffs, but the team should not cast its gaze that far down the road. It's Year 1 of Head Coach Mike Zimmer's program and there has been a lot of improvement, particularly on defense. The focus should continue to be on improving each week. The good news in terms of looking ahead at the playoffs is that the Vikings have consecutive games versus division opponents coming up and they have a string of three consecutive home games coming up, as well. If the Vikings take care of their business in the division and during that home stand, then it'll be time to look ahead at difference scenarios. Until then, it's a one week at a time kind of deal for the Vikings.
How is a Kyle Rudolph Week 11 return shaping up? Is he going to be ready? -- Austin M.
Zimmer was asked last week if Rudolph could play this upcoming Sunday, and he said it was a possibility. The answer to that question won't be known until later in the week, though. Indications are Rudolph will return to practice this week, and if he does then he stands a chance of suiting up on Sunday at Soldier Field. Keep an eye on the injury report.
Is it Norv Turner or what? Why are the Vikings not using Cordarrelle Patterson more as a running back in the backfield or on jet sweeps like they did against the Rams in Week 1? The guy has talent and everyone know it, so why not use it? -- Jacob K.
The Vikings had success using Patterson as a rusher in the first game of the season (3 carries for 102 yards and 1 TD) and a large part of it was the presence of Adrian Peterson. The Vikings were pounding the middle of the Rams defense with Peterson and that allowed Turner to call plays such as the jet sweeps and tosses to Patterson so he could stress the edges of the defense. Also, the Rams didn't know the jet sweeps and tosses were coming with Patterson because the Vikings hadn't put it on tape at that point (it was Week 1). Once the Vikings put that on tape, teams began preparing for it. Plus, the Vikings lost Peterson after the first game and that took away the dynamic I described above and defenses were able to focus more attention on stopping Patterson.
Rather than continuously pounding their head against the wall by stubbornly giving it to Patterson on jet sweeps and tosses that wouldn't work as well, Turner and his staff (wisely) spent more energy trying to find a way to get the running game going with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. That strategy worked out well because now those two are legitimate rushers and Patterson can focus on what he needs to focus on - improving as a receiver.
I saw that Tom Johnson leads all interior linemen with 5.5 sacks and I would guess he plays less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps. That's really impressive. Sharrif Floyd has played really well the last month and I think is clearly the better player, but Johnson is definitely an unsung hero. I never hear about him. What do you make of that? -- Cody H.
Perhaps the strength of the Vikings team this season is its defensive line, with Everson Griffen tallying 9.5 sacks in the first nine games, Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph forming a great tandem at defensive tackle, seventh-rounder Shamar Stephen providing depth and Brian Robison providing a presence at left end against both the run and the pass. Given all of that, it's understandable why Johnson's production has gone a bit under the radar. I can assure you, though, Johnson's production has not gone unnoticed inside Winter Park. Zimmer and the rest of the defensive staff value what Johnson brings to the table.
What is your impression of WR Charles Johnson? Do you think he could develop into top or good receiver, for the Vikings? -- Paul H. Denver, CO
Johnson's top two traits are size (6-2, 215 pounds) and speed, and I can see him developing into a solid receiver for the Vikings. Keep in mind, he came from the Cleveland Browns practice squad and it was with the Browns last season where he learned Turner's system. Once Johnson fits into the system and develops a rapport with QB Teddy Bridgewater, I expect him to be the team's best vertical route runner and vertical threat.