I don't think there were too many Vikings fans who thought Minnesota would walk away from Sunday's game victorious, let alone with a 13-point margin. That said, Aaron Rodgers gets hurt and everything gets thrown out the window.
Below are FIVE glaring observations stemming from the Vikings 23-10 win over the Packers on Sunday...
The entire landscape has shifted...
No longer are the playoffs a longshot for the Minnesota Vikings. With Aaron Rodgers on the shelf for 6 weeks at least and potentially out for the entire season with a broken collarbone the entire landscape of the division changes, heck the landscape of the entire conference changes since the Packers were one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. That's over.
What isn't over is the opportunity that the Minnesota Vikings now have to take the title and try their hand at a playoff run. They're sitting atop the division now, but it's not outside the realm of the possibility to say they finish the season that way. The Bears stink, the Lions are incredibly inconsistent and the Vikings are solid on both sides of the ball. Win the games you're supposed to win, split the rest and you should end up 10-6 and that's good enough for a playoff spot, maybe a BYE in the rather level playing field that is the NFC in 2017.
The defense is officially back...
A year ago, as the Vikings started the season 5-0, it was the defense that was carrying the team week in and week out while Bradford and the offense would go out and do enough to win. That 2016 defense was holding opponents out of the endzone, they were turning the opposition over and they were wreaking havoc in the visitors backfield. We're seeing that again from this 2017 squad. Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith might have played their best games of the season and both extended a solid campaign across the board. Xavier Rhodes is picking balls off, the same for Trae Waynes, heck even Mackenzie Alexander got in on the fun this weekend. Everson Griffen is spending more time in the opponents backfield than ever before and Mike Zimmer is dialing up exotic blitzes and formations left and right.
To date, the Vikings have held opponents to an average of 16.8 points per game which will allow them to be in almost every game this season if that continues.
Keenum is THE quarterback...
I wrote a full feature article on this HERE, but to summarize the Vikings need to leave Keenum as the starting quarterback until he wets the bed...no matter who's healthy. Teddy has been cleared to return to practice, Bradford is still working to do the same getting some sort of alternative treatments with blood spinning, but still Keenum has a good thing going and if it ain't broke don't fix it. Let him keep the momentum, don't force someone back early and with the note about the defensive efforts up above, even an above average backup quarterback can lead you to the promise land.
Did Treadwell get the confidence boost he needed?
It was his best game to date, three catches for 51 yards including a SICK one-handed grab, but was it enough to boost the struggling wide outs confidence? It sure seemed to be that way in the locker room following the game. There have been many games where Laquon's lack of involvement on the field has led to him being ignored post game in the locker room. That wasn't the case yesterday, the one handed catch the big booming block, there was a big group around his locker listening to him say that he expected the targets.
"I always expect it," Treadwell said. "I always do my best to stay mentally ready even though other guys are making plays. I knew my time would come and I made the most of it."
While the catch is what grabbed the headlines, it was the hard hitting block that spoke volumes to me. Sure he ended up getting flagged for the play, but it proved to me that he's willing to go all out to do the dirty stuff as well. It's fun when they throw you the ball but doing your job when they throw it to someone else is important. More so, watching the reaction of his teammates after the hit spoke loudly about how they feel about the beleaguered wide receiver in that locker room.
Can Jerick McKinnon fill in as the #1 running back?
It would appear as if he is slowly grabbing that starting spot, but there's still a lot that McKinnon is leaving on the table. Fumbles in the last two games, dropped passes, those are the things that leave question marks surrounding Jerick despite scoring three TDs in two games without Cook now.
"The fumble was not good," head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. "There's some things we have to correct with him, as with a lot of our guys, but it's always good correcting after wins."
These comments didn't come as any surprise to McKinnon either...
"The [fumble] last week still sits with me too," McKinnon said after the game. "In that situation I can’t do that and it is something that I haven’t done in the past. For me it is just about responding, making up for that mistake not for me but for my teammates. Those guys are fighting hard and for me to go out there and put the ball on the ground, I can’t do that. I am just glad to respond for those guys and get that off my shoulders."