Vikings Tied for NFC North Lead Despite Four-Game Losing Streak
It was only four weeks ago when it seemed like the Minnesota Vikings were poised to run away with the NFC North division title. The Vikings won their first five games of the season and were the last unbeaten team in the NFL. Since then, things have taken a sharp downturn for Minnesota. The Vikings have dropped their last four games to fall to 5-4 and are now tied with the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North. Minnesota will host the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. Kickoff is at 12 pm Minneapolis time.
At this point, the battle for the NFC North division crown appears to be a three-team race between Minnesota, Detroit, and Green Bay. The Lions have won four out of their last five games, to tie the Vikings for first place at 5-4. Detroit will play at home this week against Jacksonville. The Packers are sitting just one game back in second place with a 4-5 record. Green Bay is also struggling to get in the win column after losing its last three games to Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Tennessee. The Packers will play at Washington this week.
A major reason why Minnesota is struggling right now to stay on top of the NFC North is its inability to run the football. As Ryan Lund of Fox Sports North reports, the Vikings are dead last in the NFL averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Part of the problem has to do with the loss of Adrian Peterson to a torn meniscus in Week 2. Still, Peterson also struggled when he was healthy averaging just 1.6 yards per carry in the Viking’s first two games. Minnesota brought in running back Ronnie Tillman, who had been released by Denver, to fill the open spot after Peterson’s injury. However, Tillman has only 16 carries in four games for the Vikings this season. In the 26-20 loss to Washington this past Sunday, the Vikings’ two main running backs, Jerick McKinnon Matt Asiata, ran for a combined 29 yards on just 15 carries.
Another problem for Minnesota has been its kicking game. Blair Walsh missed an extra point in Sunday’s loss to Washington. On Tuesday, Minnesota released Walsh. Walsh was 15 of 19 on extra points this season and 12 of 16 on field goal attempts. Minnesota signed Kai Forbath to replace Walsh.
This week’s game against Arizona has big implications for the NFC playoff picture. The Cardinals’ are 4-4-1 and very much alive for a postseason bid. The Vikings will likely have to rely on their defense, which has given up a league-best 16.9 points per game this season, to keep their offense in the game against a very stingy Arizona defense. The Cardinals are for third fewest points allowed per game at 17.8. Arizona’s offense has fallen off significantly from last year when the team made it to the NFC championship game. The Cardinals are coming off a narrow 23-20 win over the 49ers.