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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Highlights Vikings Ups and Downs So Far in 2021

The first month or so of the Vikings 2021 season has already seen its share of twists and turns.

Minnesota currently stands at 2-3, with the three losses by a combined 11 points. But the Vikings most-recent win wasn't the most eye-pleasing as they squeaked out a 19-17 victory over the winless Lions on Sunday.

Chad Graff of The Athletic recently posted his weekly 10 observations on the Vikings, and brought up both highs and lows of the team entering Week 6.

Graff wrote that the biggest bright spot in Minnesota right now might be the pass rush.

There were questions about the Vikings pass rush entering the season given that both starting defensive tackles are primarily run stuffers, that Danielle Hunter was coming off a season-ending injury and that it was unknown who would start opposite Hunter.

But Hunter's dominance and Everson Griffen's re-emergence have quelled those concerns. Both defensive ends notched seven pressures against Jared Goff on Sunday with Griffen nabbing two sacks and Hunter one. They've been bright spots for the Vikings. Zimmer complimented Griffen's play but remained adamant that he played too much against the Lions, appearing in 49 snaps.

"If we can keep him to 30 to 35 (snaps), we feel like we can maintain his athleticism and power and things like that through the course of the year," Zimmer said.

Hunter currently has 6.0 sacks on the season and is tied for fourth in the NFL. And Hunter and Griffen lead the league with 10 combined sacks by a pair of teammates thus far.

On the other side of the ball, however, Graff noted the Vikings offense seems a bit stuck in the mud.

Minnesota, which hasn't scored a second-half offensive touchdown in the past four games, seems to be struggling to find a collective rhythm.

Graff wrote:

What once seemed to be the Vikings strength has suddenly become a major liability. The unit's struggles against the Browns [in Week 4] could have been excusable given the Browns strong defense. But a week later, the situation looks worse for the Vikings.

The Browns gave up 47 points on Sunday to the Chargers, including 398 passing yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Vikings struggled against a putrid Lions defense. A deeper look into the numbers reveals a lot of the issues stemmed from the running game.

The Vikings ran it 15 times on first down compared to 14 passes. They ran it nine times on second down. On those early downs, the Vikings had a success rate (defined as a positive expected points added outcome) on 20 percent of their rushes compared to 52 percent of their passes.

Minnesota ran for 120 yards on 28 attempts against Detroit. Alexander Mattison's 48-yard rumble accounted for 40 percent of the Vikings rush tally on that one carry.

The Vikings will look to get back on track Sunday against a Panthers defense that ranks second overall with 255.8 yards per game allowed. Carolina is also third in the NFL with just 17.4 points allowed per game.

Graff, who's full list of observations can be found here, also included notes on Christian Darrisaw, Chris Herndon and Garrett Bradbury in his article.

View the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" as the team defeated the Lions in Week 5 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

NFL looking into possibly playing in Germany

The Dolphins and Jaguars will play at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, which marks the 30th game in London since the start of the 2007 season.

The Vikings are 2-0 across the pond, getting wins over Pittsburgh in 2013 and Cleveland in 2017.

But the NFL is now looking into expanding into a different global market. posted a story Tuesday morning that the league has identified three German cities as possible sites for future games.

The article stated:

After an initial period in which expressions of interest were received from multiple cities, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich have been invited to proceed to the "candidate phase" of the process. Those cities will now participate in deeper conversations about staging games in Germany.

"Regular-season games are a key part of continuing the development of our German fan base by creating more excitement for the sport and more connectivity with fans and communities," said Brett Gosper, NFL Head of Europe and UK.

"The strong interest we have received from German cities underlines what a fantastic opportunity this is for a host, ranging from the significant economic benefits and global exposure to the chance to become a hub for the growth of the NFL's fan engagement, community and grassroots activities.

"As well as identifying a stadium that is fully capable of handling the logistics of an NFL game, we want to work with a host consortium that comprises local and regional government, stadium ownership, local stakeholders and potential commercial partners. We want this to be a long-term partnership."