Breaking news: this entry will not fawn over Don Shelby. Although, since he's an expert on everything -- just ask him -- I bet he has some ideas on why the Vikings are underperforming beyond anyone's expectations this year.
The answer is pretty simple: many players are performing way below expectations.
If you believe that this team would be 6-3, instead of 3-6, with a different head coach, then I would like to sell you some left-handed microphones.
That doesn't mean that coach Brad Childress is blameless. But I get the sense that many fans would rather go through the body scanner at the airport and have those images posted on YouTube than watch another game with Childress in charge.
The Vikings had 10 legitimate Pro-Bowl players last year. Of those, only two, running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Percy Harvin, are anywhere near a repeat performance. And even Peterson has failed in some key situations, most notably against Miami and New England at the goal-line.
A few different play calls or personnel groups do not make up for the Vikings trailing for long periods in eight of their nine games. Only against Detroit in Week 3 have the Vikings led for an extended stretch . Because of that, the pass rush has been non-existent. They are last in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-11. Their 23 turnovers to date are five more than all of 2009. Quarterback Brett Favre's interception rate of 5.5% is on pace to be the highest of his career.
The Vikings have the 25th-ranked red zone offense. Their special teams have shown warts. The defense can't come up with third-down stops. Linebacker E.J. Henderson should win Comeback Player of the Year, but clearly isn't the same player he was before his injury. Linebacker Chad Greenway is the only starter among the front-seven playing better than his 2009 form.
At what point can we say that the execution is just as bad as the coaching? On Sunday, Chicago won easily despite committing 11 penalties for 116 yards, throwing a red-zone interception, and missing an easy field goal. How is any of that Childress' fault? Childress is the same coach who won 12 games last year, and was one Favre interception from the Super Bowl.
No reason to pick Shelby's brain on this one. The reality is that the Vikings just aren't that good, and the players are to blame too.
CBS college basketball analyst Bill Raftery has a saying when a player -- oftentimes a star -- comes through in a clutch situation: "ONIONS!"
Will Vikings running back Adrian Peterson prove to have "ONIONS" in Sunday's playoff game? If he doesn't, the Vikings will be one-and-done for a second consecutive season and 13th time in team history.
"I want to be the best there is and ever was," Peterson told NFL Fanhouse when asked what he wants to achieve. "I don't just want to be the best running back that has ever played football, I want to be the best player to have ever played football."
The player Peterson is most frequently compared with -- Walter Payton -- was just ordinary in nine career playoff games, so postseason success is not mandatory to make the Hall of Fame. But to be considered the "best there is and ever was" it is.
Peterson hasn't played like the best or second-best running back on the planet this year. Outside of abusing Cleveland's Eric Wright in the first game and showing flashes of greatness versus Baltimore, Peterson hasn't had a Hall of Fame-esque season. His numbers, especially his 43 catches, are good, but don't blow you away. In 2008, he went over 100-yards in a franchise-record 10 games. This year he has just three 100-yard games. 23 percent of the Vikings' runs have not gained at least one yard, which is 2nd-worst in the NFL.
Footballoutsiders.com on the Vikings' running game: The 2009 Minnesota Vikings do not have a great running game. They don't even have a good running game. What they have is a running back who is great when he's not having fumbling problems, and a seriously overrated offensive line that has steadily declined over the course of the year.
Peterson has put the ball on the ground seven times this year and since entering the league in 2007, leads all non-quarterbacks in fumbles (20).
A superstar running back can ever so slightly makeup for a subpar O-line. Before the regular season finale against an unmotivated Giants team, Peterson had gone six straight games averaging less than four yards per rush. Four of which came against bottom-half rush defenses (Chicago x2, Arizona, and Carolina).
His missed block on the first play of last year's playoff game set the tone for Philadelphia's blitz package the rest of the day. In that loss, he ran for 83 yards on 20 carries.
The best way to negate Dallas' top-notch pressure is to establish a run game. Yes, it's true that they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, but they also haven't seen a running back capable of doing what Peterson can.
Four of Peterson's six best games have come against the 3-4 look, which Dallas features. His top career game -- 296 yards vs. San Diego in 2007 -- was accomplished when seeing the 3-4. Current Cowboys tackle Igor Olshansky was a starter on that Chargers defense.
I get the sense after talking with well-spoken right guard Anthony Herrera in the locker room on Friday that the Vikings truly believe that they can have success in the run game.
Former Vikings head coach Jerry Burns had a saying before entering a big game: "We've got to make sure that our big knockers knock." Whether Peterson "knocks" on Sunday will go a long way in determining if he is a big-time player who delivers in big-time games or if he is just a big-time player.