No Purple fan really wants Minnesota to lose more games, thus insuring a franchise quarterback in the 2014 Draft. But when you are four games out of the division lead with five to play, the realist takes over.
Minnesota's remaining five opponents are a combined 32-25. None have losing records. After hosting the (6-5) Chicago Bears this Sunday, the Vikings will travel to Baltimore (6-6), host Philadelphia (6-5), play at Cincinnati (7-4), before finishing with the first place Detroit Lions (7-5).
With the 30th ranked defense in the league, that has additionally lost two players (A.J. Jefferson and Erin Henderson) in recent weeks to misbehavior, Minnesota does not appear to have the defense to stop anyone. They are ranked 31st in the league at allowing teams to convert on third down at 46 percent. They have a plus/minus point differential of -80. They are 28th in turnover ratio at -9.
This defense is the worst in franchise history. The fans want a franchise quarterback. But this team needs a defensive overhaul in the worst of ways.
Still, if Minnesota loses their remaining games, they will finish with no worse than the fourth overall pick. After Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville is taken with the first pick in the Draft, there is the possibility of Minnesota choosing from a rather long list for the right franchise quarterback. Names like Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, or Brett Hundley, are being tossed around as potential picks.
Minnesota fans are well aware of the hunt for a good draft choice. Living in the same state as the Timberwolves, how could one not? The have made a habit out of focusing on draft position by mid-season. And some years the Vikings have provided this entertainment. 2011-12 comes to mind. Minnesota finished 3-13 and was awarded the fourth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. They chose Matt Kalil, who had a Pro Bowl type rookie season.
And so, while some of us still look for victory, many of us are starting to watch the other teams competing with us for the draft position in 2014. I am sure it is some sort of defense mechanism our egos provide to minimize the pain of being unable to win. There are ten teams who are presently at four wins or fewer. They are as follows (ordered projected finish):
1. Houston Texans, 2-9. Houston is riding a nine-game losing streak despite having the number one-ranked defense. Their opponents in the remainder of the season are 31-24. They have games against New England and Denver at home. They travel to Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Tennessee. The are almost a lock for the first pick, save for a vital match against the 2-9 Jaguars. That game could be called the Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes.
2. Atlanta Falcons, 2-9. It is not clear how the Falcons can be so bad. They have lost five straight games with the 13th ranked offense. Maybe it is that their defense is dead last in stopping opponents on third down? Or 30th in turnover ratio? Atlanta is the only team worse than our Vikings in these areas. And that means their opponents at 27-28-1 are: at Buffalo, at Green Bay, Washington, at San Francisco, and Carolina, licking their chops. Still, the Falcons must lose to two other teams who are also headed to an early pick. And that can prove to be difficult.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-9. Just a few weeks ago, the Jaguars were a shoe-in for a top two pick. Not anymore. Despite a -182 point differential and the 32nd-ranked offense, Jacksonville has won two of their last five games. And their remaining games are winnable, as their opponents are 22-33. Jacksonville will play at Cleveland, then host Houston, Buffalo, and Tennessee, before finishing at Indianapolis.
4. Minnesota Vikings, 2-8-1. The way Minnesota's defense has crumbled late in games, one might think we have been tanking all season. But the truth is they have been working very hard. We are simply not as talented as the 2012-13 season suggested. Minnesota could easily win a few of their remaining games if the defense steps up.
5. Washington Redskins, 3-8. Robert Griffin III is another reminder that young quarterbacks are often not dependable. Even really good ones. Washington has been terrible all year. They are one of the few teams with a worse point differential than Minnesota. And while their offense ranks 7th, the defense is ranked 28th in the league. Their schedule of: New York Giants, Kansas City, at Atlanta, Dallas, and at New York Giants, is a combined 26-30. Many eyes will be watching the Week 15 game vs. the Falcons, as it could have large impact on Minnesota's position.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-8. The Bucs have won three straight, and have improved since deposing Josh Freeman. They have the 31st ranked offense, but their turnover ratio is 4th in the league at +10. However, their schedule is difficult, with their opponents having a combined record of 33-22. Tampa Bay begins with visiting Carolina, hosting Buffalo and San Francisco, and then traveling to St. Louis and New Orleans.
7. Oakland Raiders, 4-8. They almost pulled off a Thanksgiving upset, but the Raiders folded late. Oakland has only four games remaining, two road games with New York Jets and San Diego, and home matches with Kansas City and Denver. Their opponents are 28-16 at present. It is highly likely they will remain at four wins by season's end.
8-10. Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, all 4-7. Any of these teams could tank the remainder of the season. Buffalo will have the most difficult time losing, as their opponents are 20-35 combined. The Giants were riding a four-game winning streak until last week, while the Browns will battle the Jaguars this Sunday in an important game in terms of the 2014 Draft. My money is on Cleveland keeping to four wins, as they have lost their last two.
And so the battle rages on.
Many Minnesota faithful will cheer for the Vikings to beat Chicago. Matt Forte is somewhat hobbled. Josh McCown is not Jay Cutler. Christian Ponder has played better. He stepped up in the pocket better than ever before in the game vs. the Packers. Adrian Peterson is running very well, and has had success versus the Bears.
But for some the question is... do we really want to?
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