Vikings Mid-Season Report Card
Quarterback -- Grade: A
Brett Favre's presence in Purple was -- and will ultimately be -- reviewed in a polar sense. I remain a firm believer that anything short of an NFC Championship appearance will be viewed as a failure. But at this juncture, the pole points ardently north. Favre, at 40 years old, has been nothing short of stellar. His QB rating of 106 is second in the NFL, and would represent (by far) the highest rating of his 19-year career. His 16 touchdown throws are tied for third in the league and his diminutive three picks are the fewest for any quarterback with at least 164 attempts. Two wins over Green Bay gave the Vikings their first sweep of the pack in the Childress era, while late-game heroics over San Fran and Baltimore only furthered the fable that is Favre. He's leading the Vikings to 30.5 plus points per, which would represent the first 30-plus scoring average since . . . well, let's not go there quite yet.
Running Backs -- Grade: A-
Adrian Peterson is tied for third in the NFL in rushing (784 yards) and his nine rushing TD's are second best in the conference. In addition, he also leads the NFC with eight runs of 20 yards or more. While A.P. is trending to rush for about 200 fewer yards than in 2008, that comes as no surprise given the presence of a quarterback that hold about 1,926 NFL records. Of further positive note: Peterson's 19 catches are just two shy of his career high and he's caught a pass in every game -- a long-lamented facet of his game that seems to be maturing with time.
Chester Taylor looks to see reduced carries for the third consecutive year and his bobble vs. Pitt is what most will remember thus far through the '09 campaign. In addition, his 2.7 yards per carry would be the lowest clip of his strong career. Still, Chet has nabbed 24 catches and I personally believe that his presence will be strongly felt through the air as we get to the grinding weeks of December.
Wide Receiver and Tight Ends -- Grade: A-
After grabbing just 22 TD receptions last season, this unit is now the collective beneficiary of having Favre behind center. That's neither to belittle their collective accomplishments, nor to say that their 16 TD nabs through eight games are wholly the product of Favre. These dudes have looked pretty damn hot on their own. Sid Rice is 6th in the NFC in receiving yards, and has already well-surpassed his career receiving high by nearly 200 yards. Bernard Berrian may never be viewed as worthy of his $43 million contract, and his projected 548 receiving yards would be his fewest since '05 -- still, the guy has shown some toughness in recent weeks, the likes of which aren't generally associated with his name. Rook Percy Harvin has been both phenomenal and ubiquitous with five total touchdowns accrued via air (3) and return (2). He possesses the finest skill-set for a Vike at his post since . . .well, let's still not travel there.
Visanthe Shiancoe has just 22 catches, yet a whopping 27 percent of those babies have been for a score. The six touchdowns are just one short of his career high, set last season.
O-Line-- Grade: B+
Given the 18 sacks (15th most in NFL) and 40 quarterback hits (10th most) suffered by Favre, it's temping to grade this unit out lower. But with essentially two rookies (Phil Loadholt, John Sullivan's "second year"), the point surge outweighs the blemishes. As beautifully-noted in the Trib, guard Steve Hutchinson's holding penalty vs. Pitt was dude's first since 2003. Crazy good; Canton awaits.
D-Line: Grade -- B+
While the Purple look to lose their three-year hold in league-best rushing defense (they're currently a strong 6th), the line is making up for it in sacks. Led by Jared Allen's league-best 10.5 (tied), the unit as a whole tops the NFL with 31. The Vikings have never led the league in the New Millennium. Complimented by the unsung domination of Kevin Williams, Allen also sports five tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
Linebackers -- B
After being spurned by the Pro Bowl in '08, Chad Greenway has come back with another exceptional campaign. His 46 solo tackles are tied for 16th in the league, a mark well-buoyed by two forced fumbles and two interceptions. E.J. Henderson has also been sound, as evidenced by his 57 total tackles, good for 24th in the league. The unit looks strong sideline-to-sideline, but it would be encouraging to see more run-help in the middle.
D-Backs -- Grade C-
Antoine Winfield looks to return next week at the latest, which would readily behoove the Vikings' lone crud unit. The unit offers just four picks, and zero TD returns. While their performance against Pittsburgh was encouraging, the 278 passing yards allowed per are bad for 21st in the NFL. Hope should come in the stat offering no present top-12 passers in the remaining eight games. Of course, those are just numbers -- we'll soon gather how they measure-up versus the likes of Kurt Warner, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning.
Special Teams -- Grade -- A-
Coverage units have been strong, with kickoff's limited to 21.6 per and punts presently only a slight worry at 7.8 (with a score allowed). From the offensive vantage, unknown Jaymar Johnson has been an acceptable punt man, while Percy Harvin's nascent rep grows with his two kickoff returns for score.
Chris Kluwe continues to be a trustworthy leg, with a solid 15 punts pinned inside the opponent's 20 -- good for 7th (tied) in the league. Ryan Longwell's stellar 92.9 field goal percentage (13-for-14) is good for 3rd in the league, and would represent the highest mark in his impressive 13-year career.
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