In addition to pageantry, the opening coin toss is a 50-50 proposition. The visiting team is allowed to make the call of heads or tails, and the winner is allowed to take the ball or defer.
Ben Goessling of ESPN.com notes that coin toss winners have deferred on overwhelming majority of the time in 2015, along with the Vikings during the Mike Zimmer era that began last season. Goessling writes:
*Zimmer is among the legion of head coaches that has turned kicking off after winning the opening coin toss from strategic novelty to something approaching standard practice. When the league first gave NFL teams the option to defer their choice until the second half in 2008, only 7.8 percent of coin toss winners took the option. That number has grown every season, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and this year, teams who won the coin toss have deferred their decision in 91 of 119 games, or 76.4 percent of the time. (The New England Patriots, one of the pioneers of deferring, chose to be unconventional in Week 3 when they opted to defend the north goal after winning the coin toss at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars). *
*It's working, too; according to ESPN Stats and Information, teams who defer are winning 54.9 percent of their games this year, compared to teams that win 51.9 percent of the time who take the ball after winning the toss. *
"You have a chance to score at the end of the half and then get the ball back again," said Zimmer, who has instructed his captains to defer on nine of the 10 coin tosses the Vikings have won since he became head coach. "You have a chance to get an extra possession somewhere in there."
The Vikings are 5-4 on the times they've deferred, including 1-1 this season.
**Harrison Smith on "Midseason All-Pro team"
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling placed Harrison Smith as one of the safeties on his "Midseason All-Pro team," along with Miami's Reshad Jones. While that doesn't affect actuall All-Pro status at the end of the season, it is worth noting that others are noticing the play of the fourth-year safety who was also recognized at the quarter-season mark, along with Denver's T.J. Ward.
Smith is not only the best blitzing safety in the league, but also a prime example of Minnesota's defense challenging Seattle's as the league's surest tackling unit. The second spot was a tough choice between Jones and Malcolm Jenkins. Even before his twin pick-sixes in Weeks 6 and 7, Jones was the lone week-in, week-out force on Miami's defense.
Wesseling, meanwhile, shifted from Vikings RB Adrian Peterson at the quarter-season mark to Rams rookie Todd Gurley at the midseason point.
*After just two NFL starts, it was obvious that Gurley was not just a generational talent but also a franchise-altering power/speed back of the Earl Campbell mold. Despite missing two games and barely playing in a third, he's on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. Since entering the starting lineup, he has accounted for 50 percent of the Rams' offense. He's easily the youngest player in history to rush for at least 125 yards in four consecutive games.
View photos of LB Fred McNeill, who played for the Vikings for 12 seasons (1974-1985).
At what point do we go overboard in acknowledging Gurley's uniqueness? Barring an injury, he will sail past Adrian Peterson's sterling rookie mark of 1,341 yards. More impressively, Gurley has rushed for 575 yards in his first five games since ACL surgery compared to the 420 Peterson accrued in the first five games of his 2012 MVP season -- returning from a reconstructive knee procedure of his own.
Fred McNeill remembered
Vikings alumni recounted their memories of linebacker Fred McNeill, who played all 12 of his pro seasons in Minnesota, to Paul Walsh of the Star Tribune.