Dan Zinski, the editor over at The Viking Age, took a few moments out of his busy day to answer some questions we here at lombardiave threw his way about tomorrow’s big NFC North Division showdown at Lambeau Field.
Though the rivalry between the two teams has cooled since the Brett Favre-turned-traitor days, whenever the Vikings come to town it’s a big deal.
So, without further adieu, here is how Mr. Zinski handled our questions …
A. Their chances of making the playoffs are very slim. It was nice seeing them perform better than expected but the team’s various flaws have shown up as we’ve gone along. They still have glaring personnel issues in lots of areas including receiver, d-line, linebacker and secondary.
I think they got very fortunate schedule-wise in the early part of the season. Their only legit victory was against San Francisco. Beating Detroit twice doesn’t look like much of an accomplishment the way they’ve fizzled. Now, if they’d beaten the Bears in Chicago, I might sing a different tune. But that loss was just so frustratingly familiar.
Total flop against a division opponent on the road. If they beat the Packers I’ll change my mind again but as of now I expect this team to finish 8-8 at best. And they’ll need some breaks to get to eight wins.
Q. Adrian Peterson is a beast, a one-man wrecking crew. Would the Vikings be situated where they are today without him?
A. Well that’s a question with two answers. If they lost him off the team they have now, they’d be toast. Because the whole offense is built around him. That doesn’t address the larger question of where they’d be if they’d never drafted him or if they’d traded him rather than give him a contract extension.
Cause there’s a line of reasoning that says they should’ve let him walk and started over with a whole new approach. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. I think you just should try accumulating as much talent as possible and then figure out how to use it. Peterson is a weapon.
I just don’t know if they’ve ever quite figured out how to really get the most out of him. Not just his performance but how the offense plays off him.
A. Ponder doesn’t handle the rush well. If his first read isn’t there he’s usually bailing. He hasn’t yet mastered the art of stepping up in the pocket and delivering the ball. His problem is, he’s not that good a passer on the run either. When he runs to throw it usually winds up in disaster.
He must learn to stay in the pocket, delivering the ball with the rush in his face. Take the hits. That’s what all the good ones do. They know they’re not always going to have a strong pocket. They’ve got the clock in their head. They get the ball out.
Ponder just doesn’t seem to have that instinctive feel. He seems a bit mechanical. He isn’t natural like some other young guys we’ve seen this year (Luck, Wilson, Griffin).
This is the same story we heard last week against the Bears. Their offensive line was all patched together and the Vikes were supposed to maul them. So what happened? They sacked Cutler once and it wasn’t even a real sack. He tripped over his center’s foot. The Bears made all the right adjustments. They chipped and they eschewed the deep drops. And the Vikes didn’t really get their act together until the second half but by then it was too late.
So I don’t know what will happen. Maybe the Vikes will try to bring more pressure early. Or maybe they’ll just go into their standard Cover-2 look and hope the front four can do the job. But those pass rushers just aren’t the same on grass as they are on the turf. It negates a lot of their speed. And the up-the-middle rush is just non-existent right now for this team.
Kevin Williams is a has-been and neither nose tackle is really much of a rusher. It’s all edge rush and you can neutralize those guys with technique and the occasional tight end chip.
Q. The Vikings have had issues in stopping Aaron Rodgers the past couple of seasons. Do they do it Sunday? How? And give me your thoughts on how you think Sunday’s game will go – with a final score.
A. I’ll be interested frankly to see how much running the Packers do. The Vikes’ run defense has had its struggles. This might be a good week to go to the ground. Randall Cobb is another guy who worries me. I could see him going off this week. Rodgers is going to do what he does.
I’m not that concerned about his overall stats, it’s just the big play that kills you. They might hit him a few times and slow down the offense, or the Packers might have some of the execution troubles they’ve had, but then he just hits you with the one huge play.
I’ve actually got the Packers winning this one 28-13. Very optimistic assessment from me.