EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings offensive line is rounding into form.
Prior to Sunday's 19-13 victory at Chicago, Minnesota ranked inside the top 10 of both ESPN and Pro Football Focus' offensive line rankings. Star Tribune writer Michael Rand highlighted the Vikings offensive line in a recent column.
This Vikings season is a frustrating enough paradox that sure, why wouldn't Pro Football Focus have Minnesota graded as the No. 1 run blocking team and No. 3 pass blocking team right now.
And yes, that's in the entire NFL, not the state of Minnesota or the NFC North.
What do we make of that? It doesn't seem right, or even close to right, based on the eye test or the inconsistent nature of all phases of the Vikings offense through six games.
It feels like the Vikings are being marked on some bizarre scale, but then again, they must be graded on all the same things that Philadelphia (No. 2 in run blocking) and San Francisco (No. 3) are, and those teams absolutely belong in that elite conversation.
And get this: ESPN's win-rate metrics for pass blocking and run blocking had the Vikings, before the Bears game, at No. 6 and No. 5, respectively, in the NFL.
Rand then went on to explain where the Vikings rank in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, which stands for defense-adjusted value over average.
Well, let's peek at it this way: If we look at DVOA — which stands for defense-adjusted value over average and tries to measure the impact and expected impact of plays instead of just results — the Vikings are better this year than a year ago.
This year, they are No. 16 in overall DVOA, suggesting they are an average NFL team.
Last year, they finished No. 28 — ahead of just four teams — in DVOA, suggesting their 13-4 record was a huge outlier. Nobody else in the bottom seven had more than five wins.
The Vikings thrived last year on situational excellence. This year they have been undone by ghastly and untimely turnovers, an offense that hasn't produced a first-quarter touchdown, a No. 27 ranking on third down conversions and an inconsistent defense. If their line play isn't to blame for those scoring woes, who or what is?
But the Vikings have also lost one-score games to the No. 5, No. 7, No. 14 and No. 15 teams in DVOA, and they will play the No. 1 team (San Francisco) this week. Of their next seven games after that, six are against teams who fall between No. 21 and No. 30 in DVOA, and the other (the Saints) is No. 13.
The New York Times says that adds up to a29% chance to still make the playoffs. If the Vikings really are better than their record (or the eye test) suggests, they'll have plenty of chances to prove it.
Click here to read Rand's full column
The Athletic evaluates Vikings trade options
With the NFL trade deadline less than two weeks away, The Athletic's Alec Lewis explored some possible players the Vikings could deal.
Lewis made it clear that Minnesota is committed to being competitive this season. But he argued both sides of whether trading a certain player would or wouldn't make sense, staring with edge rusher Danielle Hunter.
Why it doesn't make sense: Because the Vikings need talent on their defensive front. Remove Hunter and Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores would be operating with D.J. Wonnum and Pat Jones II. Offseason edge signing Marcus Davenport is on Injured Reserve, nursing a high ankle sprain. His recovery timeline is uncertain. The long-term view at edge rusher is just as bleak. The Vikings hope Andre Carter II develops into an impact player, but he was an undrafted rookie. Take Hunter out of the equation and Minnesota would either have to allocate premium draft capital to the spot or fish for options in free agency. Hunter might be in line for a massive extension given his 2023 performance, which complicates the Vikings decision. Inarguable, though, is that Hunter has performed consistently for years. Only 23 players have played 3,000 snaps as a pass rusher since Hunter's rookie season in 2015. Hunter ranks fifth in sacks among those players behind Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones, Cameron Jordan and Khalil Mack.
Click here for Lewis' analysis on K.J. Osborn, Jordan Hicks, Harrison Phillips and Ezra Cleveland.