#92Noon: Sneak Peek at Dolphins Week! #Vikings

Despite a coach getting fired, losing to bad teams and not taking advantage of opportunities to beat good teams, the Vikings are still a playoff team!

I thought the NFC was going to be pure bloodsport in 2018 with a handful of Super Bowl contenders battling it out for supremacy, but looks like I was wrong. As of today, the conference appears to be VERY top-heavy with a couple clubs, while the rest are sifting through the ashes of mediocrity below. Unfortunately, with the offense in its current state, the Vikings are one of those NFC lame ducks. One cool thing about this uninspired group right now, though, is that 6-6-1 is good enough to be a playoff team!!!!!!

So, screw the previous 14 weeks! Pump it up!!! Win three straight, get into the playoffs and.....go on the road to Soldier Field on Wildcard Weekend? Dammit. Let's just stick to the Dolphins.

Miami beat the Purple at home in their most recent regular season meeting, 37-35 late in the 2014 season. It was a bad snap on a Vikings punt deep in our own territory that led to the go-ahead safety in the final minute of the game. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill went for 396 and 4 touchdowns in that game as well. But that was 4 years ago! Nobody cares.

Moving on to the here and now:  The following is a literal unloading of my notebook from some nuggets and things that I pulled in advance of this weekend's game:

  • BITS
    • Dolphins are 7-6 and winners of two straight over Buffalo and then the miraculous walk-off on New England last weekend. Gronk as a deep safety, a beautiful sight to behold.
    • They're 1-5 on the road this year, winning week 2 at Sam Darnold's Jets before taking 5 straight L's away from home. They've been a COMPLETELY different operation on the road.
    • Adam Gase is in his third season as head coach...remember when he was the Bears OC(2015) and was praised for somehow getting Jay Cutler to be mildly more efficient & less reckless? Yeah, he's still in Miami, with a 23-23 total record with one playoff game (2016, loss to the Steelers).
    • The Dolphins are one of four teams with a 7-6 record in the AFC, and they're 3rd in line for a playoff spot based on tie breakers (Ravens are in, then Colts before Dolphins before Titans...all at 7-6). That means they're in the mix and looking to end that road losing streak.
    • From 2003 to present, the Patriots have won the AFC East 14 of 15 times...in 2008, Tony Sparano's Dolphins won the division crown with an 11-5 record. That was Tom Brady's ACL year for the Pats, catapulting some guy named Matt Cassel into the starting role.
    • Random note: Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards was a linebackers coach with the Dolphins from 2005-09, then 2012-13 before coming to Minnesota with Zimmer. He worked under head coaches Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin. He first arrived in Miami the season after Vikes GM Rick Spielman left to become a personnel VP here in town as well. 
  • THE QB
    • Ryan Tannehill suffered an ACL injury in 2016, but didn't know he needed surgery on it until 2017, so he was gone all last season. He's also missed 5 games in 2018. This all coming after he didn't miss a game for the first handful of seasons in his career.
    • Tannehill is 5-3 in 8 games this year
      • 8yds/att, 67% completion, 16TD/6 INT, 105 passer rating
      • 26 rushing attempts this year for just over 100 yards, he'll move the chains but isn't trying to be Russell Wilson
      • He's been sacked 19 times in those 8 games
      • Nice arm, can certainly stretch the field on deep throws, which is what they'll try to do if the run game is working. 76% of his passes are from the shotgun.
    • Important to watch injury report this week....Tannehill had an ankle injury pop up after the game, sounds like he'll be limited in practice this week. If he can't go, it's Brock Osweiler!!!
      • Brock is 2-8 in his last 10 road starts, including 2016 at Minnesota when he was with the Texans...he had a 45% completion rate and was sacked 4 times. He's just not very good.
    • Also to note, coach Gase says he "expects" Tannehill to play.
  • THE CAST
    • RB Frank Gore will be one of the most understated Hall of Famers ever. 4th all-time in rushing yards with nearly 15000 rushing yards! The 49ers took him in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft out of Miami. He's 35 years old now and has amassed 9 thousand yard seasons and nearly 100 total touchdowns in his career. He hasn't missed a game since 2010, when he played his fewest ever in a year with 11. He's getting 4.7 per carry in 2018 with 708 rushing yards and no scores, although he found the endzone via pass on one occasion earlier this year. He's still an explosive grinder.
    • Kenyan Drake is the guy they use similarly to how the Patriots use James White. He sets up a lot of the offense. He's got 102 carries at 4.5 a clip, and he's second on the team in targets & catches with 60/41 and nearly 400 yards in the air. 4 rushing TDs and 5 receiving scores, which in total is tops on the team.
    • A young playmaking WR Jakeem Grant is done for the year with injury, so he's out of the equation.
    • WR Davante Parker (who in 2015, many were wondering if the Vikings would take instead of Trae Waynes at pick 11) is kind of "just a guy" at this stage, not unlike Laquon Treadwell. Can make plays at times, but lacking the return on investment of his draft status. 22 catches and 1 TD this season.
    • Danny Amendola is Tannehill's favorite target. 49 catches on 63 targets but only 1 score.
    • Kenny Stills is a sneaky deep threat that averages 15.8 yards per catch and leads the team in receiving TDs with 6.
  • THE DEFENSE
    • The Dolphins are 2nd in the NFL in interceptions with 19....they're 7th in the NFL in takeaway/giveaway ratio with a +8 (Vikings have 12INTs on defense and are +1 in take/give, for comparison....maybe less fumbles from the quarterback would help?)
    • Potential boost for the Vikings offense, tho...CB Xavien Howard has 7 picks on his own for Miami (next most is a couple guys with 3), but he had a knee scope procedure done last week and it'll be tough for him to play in Minnesota. Oddly enough, the first game of the season he missed was last weekend against the Pats, and the Dolphins failed to get a turnover for the first time in a month.
    • Cameron Wake is an OG. Originally a CFL stud, the defensive end has 96.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the 'Fins, and he's tied for the lead in sacks this year...….with 4.5. The Dolphins have the 2nd fewest sacks in the NFL with 22. Wake is a badass, but the problem is that he's a 36 year old badass. He can still create problems at times on the pass rush, just not as consistently as in years past. He's awesome to watch, although I'm hoping he's ineffective this weekend. **Note: my subtle dismissal of Cam because he's on the backside of prime will result in him having 1.5 sacks on Sunday**
    • Former Rams DE Robert Quinn also has 4.5 sacks, but again, the pass rush hasn't proven itself to be terrifying through 13 games.
    • Their LBs, specifically Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan, are their tackle machines. Safeties TJ Macdonald & the young Minkah Fitzpatrick(they move him around a bit) can make plays as well.
    • In the end, this is the 29th ranked "total" defense in the NFL. They're surrendering nearly 140/game rushing and more than 400 yards of offense overall every week. They allow 26 points a game. Frankly, given the statistical overview of the Dolphins, some would wonder how the bleep they're 7-6. They are VERY strong at home. They are VERY bad on the road.
  • OTHER NUGS
    • The Dolphins as an offense are 30th on third downs at a 32% conversion. Vikings are best in the NFL as a defense on third downs at 29%. They're 26th in the redzone, scoring touchdowns 52% of the time. The Vikings defense allows touchdowns in the redzone 43% of the time, also best in the NFL. 
      • Odd RZ note for the Dolphins....by a mile, the fewest in the NFL, the Dolphins have only had 8 plays inside the 5 yd line this season (Vikings have 24 plays inside the 5 and 9TDs from those plays). Of those 8 plays for Miami, 3 were scores and 2 were turnovers. The Dolphins take serious Ls as the field gets compressed into short area situations. In fairness, the Vikings didn't look too comfortable punching it in from close range against Seattle, did they?
    • Dolphins defense? They're 28th in the NFL on third downs, allowing the chains to move 43% of the time...too bad the Vikings have struggled as an offense in those spots, converting 38% of their chances. Miami is 15th in the redzone, allowing TDs 58% of the time...the Vikings offense is 23rd, scoring TDs 53% of the time.
  • WRAP IT UP
    • If the Dolphins win this game, then box up the 2018 season for the Vikings and file it under "sick, sad disasters" in the franchise's historical library (feels like a crowded section...).
    • The Dolphins have allowed 400+ yards in each of the 3 games since the bye, but it will require more precision and execution in the redzone by the Vikings to close on points and put this team away. I think they can do that.
    • The Dolphins have created 11 turnovers in the last 5 games, so can Kirk and friends take care of the ball?
    • The Dolphins (starting another bullet with "The Dolphins" because I don't care) have conceded the 2nd most 20+ yd runs in the NFL this year with 16. The Vikings defense, in comparison, have allowed 4. ****People at US Bank Stadium on Sunday, listen for my voice, because I'll be screaming louder than all of you put together if Dalvin Cook gets his first 100 yard game of the season.***

Nothing less enjoyable, following a 13-3 season and an NFC title game taste, than sitting at 6-6-1 on the Wildcard sweat. The team was a game from the super bowl last January and now a coach has been fired over this underperforming bunch. Is it running to pass, is it passing to run? So exhausted with this talker!!!! Doesn't matter. John Defilippo isn't the sole culprit for this "L" of an offense, but the season and immediate future of the team relies upon Zimmer seeing a positive result from his decision to fire the OC. I'm excited for Kevin Stefanski to get his play-calling debut. It's overdue and I think he'll be fantastic. And I'm anticipating that the players will be at full attention on Sunday given the severity of what unfolded on Tuesday morning. O-Line needs to be better. Kirk ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY MUST be better than he has been at times this year. Just make a play, 8. Play football. Make a play when things aren't perfect and break down. He's capable of it, time to show it.

One thing, though...I'm not ready for the annoying off-season related talkers that will crop up if this team doesn't get to the postseason. "Is Kirk's contract the worst move the Vikings have made in the last decade?" Or, "What's up with Zimmer as a head coach? His deal is up after next year, so....." And, sure, Spielman this, Spielman that, etc. Maybe even a "did we lose some veteran leadership when guys like B-Rob left?" All pretenses involved are stomach-churning. The talent on this team in undeniable. The volatility with this team is, well, also undeniable. Joe Mauer would say that it's frustrating.

All things considered, it is with great faith that I proclaim, the Vikings will smack the hell out of Miami on Sunday. The Purple will drop 31 on them (yes, Dan Bailey will successfully kick a field goal). Please send your Monday montage ideas now to eric@kfan.com and I will select one to use, giving you credit on air. 

I also think the Redskins will lose in Jacksonville, the Eagles will get smoked by the Rams(Carson Wentz might be on the shelf for the rest of the year), and the Panthers will lose to the Saints on Monday night because they're in freefall mode and the Saints are hoping to snag the playoff 1-seed. That would put the Vikings with two fewer losses than all the above, which means a win at Detroit in week 16 would clinch a chip, chair and chance at going from FML to ATL...just gotta go to Soldier Field for that Wildcard game, probably. Fun!


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