Vikings prepare to go back to work

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2013 - 11:51 PM

The Vikings already have played three thrillers, changed QBs and been to London and back. What possibly could be next?

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Coach Leslie Frazier has some work to do to get the Vikings back in the discussion in the NFC North.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

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NFL players often compartmentalize their season into quarters, much like an actual game. It’s a familiar concept that’s easy to digest in a marathon 16-game season.

The Vikings begin their second quarter Monday when they return to work after their bye. Players would prefer a later bye — thus avoiding 12 consecutive games without a break — but their overseas trip to London necessitated an early vacation.

They probably appreciated a mental timeout after an eventful first quarter. The Vikings have played only one true home game and one “home” game 4,000 miles from Mall of America Field. Three of their four games have been decided in the final minute. And quarterback Christian Ponder could be on the cusp of losing his job permanently.

At 1-3 following a 34-27 victory against Pittsburgh, the Vikings expressed optimism that their season is salvageable after a dreary start. Here are four areas worth watching as they begin the second quarter:

 

1. Quarterback shuffle

It will be shocking if Matt Cassel is not the starter against Carolina next Sunday. Cassel gave the offense a spark in relief of Ponder against the Steelers, and it’s hard to imagine Leslie Frazier not sticking with him, even if Ponder’s fractured rib is healed enough for him to play.

Ponder’s injury buys the team another game (or two, possibly) to see if Cassel can continue to direct the offense with efficiency and balance without having to announce publicly a quarterback change.

If Cassel plays well, he keeps the job. If he struggles and the offense sputters, Frazier can go back to Ponder without having undermined his status by announcing beforehand that Cassel was the starter. In that regard, Frazier has handled this situation perfectly.

 

2. Where’s the defense?

The Vikings are 1-3 despite ranking fourth in the NFL in scoring at 28.8 points per game. That underscores how poorly their defense has played.

The Vikings rank last in the NFL in pass defense, 29th in total defense, 29th in scoring defense and 30th in third-down defense.

The one bright spot has been their ability to create turnovers. The Vikings already have collected 12 takeaways, tied for third most in the league. That total includes seven interceptions. The defense produced only 10 interceptions all of last season.

 

3. Secondary needs help

The secondary looked like a major problem area before the season, and that’s proved to be true through four games. The Vikings are allowing 326 passing yards per game (worst in the NFL) and have given up 10 TD passes (tied for worst).

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pm
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pm
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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