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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Analyzes Vikings 'Contender' Status Through Advanced Stats

After the Vikings battled back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Bills in Week 10, the narrative of whether or not Minnesota was a contender in the NFC started to tilt in the Vikings favor.

A week later, that conversation took a step back after Minnesota managed just one field goal in a 40-3 loss to Dallas at home.

The Vikings now sit at 8-2 and have four home games left in the regular season, starting Thursday against the New England Patriots. Minnesota's final three road trips are all against NFC North opponents.

As the Vikings head into their final stretch, Alec Lewis of The Athletic recently looked at nine advanced stats that help or hurt Minnesota's cause of being labeled "contenders."

One area Lewis said the Vikings have been successful at is their rushing success rate. He wrote:

The Vikings currently have a rushing success rate of 41.7 percent, which ranks 10th in the NFL.

Most of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook's success is happening after contact. Per TruMedia, he's accounting for 3.82 yards after contact, third best among NFL backs with 100 carries behind Tony Pollard and Khalil Herbert (and just ahead of Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry).

In the last 10 years, the Vikings rushing success rate would rank in the top half of teams that competed in the playoffs and in the top half of teams that played in the Super Bowl. For reference, the Rams won the Super Bowl last season with a 40.4-percent rushing success rate.

Lewis added two other components Minnesota has been strong in have come from the defensive side of the ball: tackles for loss and turnover margin.

The Vikings currently rank fourth in the NFL in tackles for loss at 59, led by outside linebackers Za'Darius Smith (14, tied for second in NFL) and Danielle Hunter (10, tied for ninth). Defensive end Jonathan Bullard and outside linebacker Pat Jones II each have five, and linebacker Eric Kendricks and outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum both have four.

Of the 64 teams that have made the playoffs in the last five years, the Vikings 59 TFLs through 10 games would rank sixth. It would also be better than all but one team that has participated in the Super Bowl in the last five years and is tied with the total of the Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers of 2020.

When it comes to turnover margin, Minnesota currently ranks third in the league in the category at plus-seven, trailing only Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Three of the Vikings eight victories this season have come on game-sealing takeaways: Josh Metellus' interception vs. Detroit in Week 3, Cameron Dantzler, Sr.'s forced fumble vs. Chicago in Week 5 and Patrick Peterson's interception at Buffalo in Week 10.

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While that is a positive stat, Lewis noted the sustainability of the turnover margin could raise some concern down the road.

In the last five years, the 2019 Patriots (plus-18), the 2018 Bears (plus-13), the 2020 Steelers (plus-12), the 2018 Browns (plus-12) and the 2018 Commanders (plus-12) rank as the five best teams in turnover margin through 10 games.

Only the Patriots improved their total during their remaining games. Three of those teams (the Patriots, Bears and Steelers) made the playoffs, but none reached the Super Bowl.

Offensively, Lewis said the Vikings need to improve on their explosive play rate.

According to TruMedia, explosive plays are either runs of more than 12 yards or passes of greater than 16 yards. Minnesota currently ranks 27th in the NFL in explosive play rate at 9.5 percent.

Going back a decade, only six times has a team earned a playoff berth with a lower explosive-play rate. To take it a step further, the Super Bowl team with the lowest explosive play rate in the last 10 years is the Eagles at 10.5 percent.

Despite being near the bottom in the category, Lewis noted Minnesota has shown an increase in its recent games, climbing from 8.7 percent before Week 7 to 10.5 percent in the past four outings.

Another area Lewis said Minnesota has to get better at is its pressure rate allowed. He wrote:

Through 10 games, the Vikings have allowed a 37.7 pressure rate, according to TruMedia, which is the fifth highest in the NFL. Notably, the Vikings have allowed the largest pressure rate when blitzed on fewer than 30 percent of dropbacks.

Lewis added of the 124 teams that have reached the postseason in the past decade, only 15 have given up a pressure rate higher than 37.7 percent (two were the 2015 and 2017 Vikings). And of those 20 teams that reached the Super Bowl, just two allowed that percentage or higher (2013 and 2014 Seahawks).

The point here is the same as what was made painfully clear Sunday night: For these Vikings to attain their loftiest hopes, they must mitigate the pressure on Kirk Cousins.

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Former Vikings DE Jared Allen named a semifinalist for 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame

The list of semifinalists for the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced Tuesday, and a familiar face made the roster.

Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was one of the 28 modern-era semifinalists. The list will be trimmed to 15 finalists before the final voting takes place.

Allen played for Minnesota from 2008-2013, registering 85.5 career sacks (sixth in franchise history) in 96 games. He also played for Kansas City (2004-07), Chicago (2014-15) and Carolina (2015) and garnered 136 career sacks and 641 total tackles.

Allen was a semifinalist for induction in 2021 and a finalist for this year's class. He was also inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor during a memorable halftime ceremony at Minnesota's game against Arizona on Oct. 30.

To see the full list of semifinalists, click here.

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