EAGAN, Minn. — Through 10 games of the 2017 season, the Vikings sported an 8-2 record and sat alone in first place in the NFC North while riding a six-game win streak.
That streak eventually turned into eight games on the way to Minnesota finishing the season with a 13-3 record, a division title and an appearance in the NFC title games.
Fast-forward through 10 games in 2018, and the Vikings sit at 5-4-1. They are behind Chicago (8-3) in the division race but would be a playoff team if the season ended today.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was recently asked about Minnesota’s struggles in the run game but made an interesting point that some numbers 10 games through the 2018 season are similar to where they were a year ago.
“What’s kind of interesting, I’ve been [comparing] 10-game stats from a year ago to 10-game stats this year,” Zimmer said. “Actually our run average a year ago at this stage was 4.04 per carry. This year, we’re 4.01 per carry, so it’s really, at the end of the day, the number of carries.
“You can look at our offense a year ago, and we were [372.5] yards per game, this year we’re [363.7],” Zimmer added. “There’s so many statistics that are like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ it’s the same thing. There’s a few that are different that we have to improve on.”
Zimmer was spot-on in that Minnesota’s yards per carry while running the ball is essentially identical to where it was a year ago. The difference is that the Vikings have 211 total rushing attempts this season compared to 305 carries through 10 games in 2017.
Vikings.com took a look at the 10-game splits that Zimmer mentioned, plus a few more interesting stats to see how Minnesota compares to where it was a year ago.
Offensively, here is how the Vikings stack up in critical areas:
2017: 10 (finished season with 27)
What it means: The Vikings have allowed almost the same amount of sacks in 10 games as they did in all of 2017.
2017: 10 (finished with 14)
Season of giving: The Vikings have surpassed their turnover total from the 2017 season.
2017: 45.6 percent (finished at 43.5)
2018: 38.9 percent
Fewer conversions and opportunities: The Vikings converted 62 of 136 at this point a year ago and are 51-for-131 this season.
Defensively, the Vikings have had an up-and-down season in 2018. Unusual mistakes early on led to a 1-2-1 start, but the unit has rebounded to help Minnesota win four of its next six games.
Here is how the Vikings defense ranks in certain areas compared to the 2017 season:
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game
Last week didn’t help: Minnesota’s rushing defense is coming off its worst performance of the season by allowing 148 yards to the Bears.
Total Yards Per Game Allowed
Trending better: The defense has been better over the past six games, but a poor start inflated these numbers.
2017: 27 (finished with 32)
Could hit 50-plus: The Vikings are on pace for 51 total sacks, thanks in large part to the franchise record 10-spot against the Lions in Week 9.
2017: 11 (finished with 19)
What it means: The Vikings have almost matched their 2017 takeaway total. Minnsota can make more teams pay for their miscues by scoring more points off turnovers.
2017: 28.6 percent
2018: 28.3 percent
What it means: The Vikings are technically a smidge better than the unit that set a historic mark of 25.2 percent set last season.
Vikings prepping for more mobile Rodgers
The last time the Vikings and Packers met, there was some anxiety on Green Bay’s side over whether or not Aaron Rodgers would play.
The Packers quarterback had injured his knee in the season opener against Chicago, but gutted it out while throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers also had three carries for eight yards in Week 2, but his mobility was clearly limited. That won’t be the case Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium as Rodgers will likely be the athletic player the Vikings are used to seeing over the years.
“I’m feeling a lot more mobile, obviously not wearing the brace anymore,” Rodgers said. “We were in the shotgun or pistol for the majority of that game … I think just about all that game.
“It’s nice to move around like I’m accustomed to and my body is feeling a lot better,” Rodgers added.
Zimmer said on Friday that he expects a much more mobile Rodgers, one that Minnesota’s defense will have to be aware of. Zimmer noted that Rodgers looks “a lot” different than mid-September.
“He still ran on us, which I didn’t think he would near as much … he tried to pull the ball once on a zone read,” Zimmer said. “But now he’s much more mobile than he was … way more mobile. It’s not even close.”
Rodgers has 29 carries for 148 yards this season. He has at least one rushing touchdown in the eight seasons where he has played at least 15 games, but does not have a rushing score this season.
DeFilippo on ‘ups and downs’ of Vikings offense
Minnesota has seen positives and negatives from all three phases of the team so far this season.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo was asked for a general assessment of his unit through his first 10 games, and he said here have been ups and downs.
“The last two weeks we probably haven’t played as well as we wanted to, but we’ve done a lot of good things this season,” DeFilippo said. “The thing that’s hurt us the most in not being able to sustain drives is the turnovers. Obviously, that’s a huge part of winning and losing football games. I talked to our guys about respecting the football this week. We have to respect the football. Any time you have the football in your hands, you have the livelihood of everybody in the organization in your hands.
“I tried to explain that to our guys a little bit more forcefully this week. When we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we’re pretty good,” DeFilippo added.
Two of the Vikings three turnovers against the Bears were interceptions thrown by QB Kirk Cousins. When asked about the way Cousins has approached the week of practice after the pair of picks, DeFilippo emphasized the importance of having “short-term memory” about errors while still using them as teaching moments.
“You have to have short-term memory but, at the same time, learn. You can’t just throw mistakes under the rug,” DeFilippo said. “You have to learn from those experiences, and that’s how you grow. That’s how you get better.”
The Vikings have seen ups and downs especially in the run game this season, but DeFilippo said his biggest frustration is in an occasional inability to extend drives.
“It’s not just the running game. To me, it’s not being able to sustain drives all the time. That’s where it gets frustrating,” said DeFilippo, who added that turnovers play a part in that. “The games we played well offensively, we got in a flow early. And the games we haven’t played so well, you’ve seen the turnovers; you’ve seen the negative runs; you’ve seen some things we’ve talked about each week that can’t happen. So we’re all part of it. We’re all in this together, and we’ll make sure we come out fast Sunday night.”