Hey there, everyone! Ted is tending to some family issues this week, so it’s one of those rare occasions where yours truly gets the opportunity to write the Stock Market Report. When it comes to the SMR, I’m pretty much the Case Keenum to Ted’s Sam Bradford/Teddy Bridgewater. . .I’m just trying not to screw things up too badly. But, as the Vikings have done on numerous occasions, when the starter goes down we’ll all steel our resolve and get through this together. So, join me, won’t you?
On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings completed their early NFC North mini-run with a matchup against their most hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings were looking up at the Packers in the NFC North standings, as the Packers had a one game lead and could have truly taken control of the division with a victory in Minnesota. They came in on a roll after their big victory over the Dallas Cowboys last week, and the fears of every purple and gold bleeding fan everywhere that the Packers could come into U.S. Bank Stadium and lift the Lombardi Trophy this February were very, very real.
However, as we’ve seen on more than one occasion in the National Football League, everything can change in the blink of an eye. Isn’t that right, Mr. Bowie?
I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test
(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Your “The NFC North is officially wide open and so is the entire NFC” version of the Stock Market Report follows.
Blue Chip Stocks
Harrison Smith, S: After making the biggest play of the Vikings’ Monday night victory over Chicago last week, Smith decided he needed to one-up himself against the Packers. Smith was all over the field on Sunday, collecting one and a half sacks and an incredible diving interception to snuff out a Packers drive at midfield and set up a Kai Forbath field goal. There might be safeties in this league that get more attention than Harrison Smith, but as I’ve maintained for the past few years, there isn’t a better one. Make the case for whoever you want, but I’ll take the Hitman every single time.
Everson Griffen, DE: It took Griffen a while, but he registered a sack in his sixth consecutive game, and spent a lot of time in the Green Bay backfield on Sunday. It didn’t matter who was lined up across from him, he was beating them constantly. Danielle Hunter got a little bit of steam as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate in the preseason, but if Griffen isn’t on the short list for it as things stand right now, then whatever list you’re looking at is terrible. And wrong.
Mike Zimmer or George Edwards or whoever is calling the Vikings defensive plays: Yes, Aaron Rodgers has done his share of slapping the Vikings around over the course of his career. But how many times have we seen a backup quarterback shred a Minnesota defense over the years? More times than I care to remember, to be honest. But not today. The Zim Reapers had Brett Hundley questioning his life choices from the first snap he took, forced him into three interceptions, and generally just made his life miserable. The Vikings’ defense did to Brett Hundley what good defenses are supposed do to backup quarterbacks. . .pound the crap out of them all afternoon.
Kai Forbath, K: Once again, Forbath was solid, hitting both of his extra points and accounting for all the scoring in the second half, including a 53-yard bomb in a situation where I honestly thought the Vikings were going to punt. He’s been perfect since missing a field goal against Detroit back in Week 4.
Adam Thielen, WR: Say, did you know that Adam Thielen is from Detroit Lakes and played his college ball at the same place the Vikings have their Training Camp every year? Yeah, you know, but nobody is going to get tired of hearing the Adam Thielen story. With Stefon Diggs out of this one with a groin injury, Thielen needed to step up, and he did. He brought in nine grabs for 97 yards and, as usual, caught everything thrown in his direction.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: The Vikings knew going into this one that Jordy Nelson, who usually kills the Vikings, wasn’t 100%, so they made the move to have Rhodes shadow Davante Adams instead. Adams wound up with five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown that I’m relatively certain can’t be placed at Rhodes’ feet. I’m not totally sure how Adams fared against Rhodes specifically, but I’m going to assume that it wasn’t much better than anyone else that Rhodes has matched up with this year. Rhodes also had his first interception of the year, courtesy of a nice tip by the much-maligned Mackensie Alexander.
The offensive line: While it seemed that Case Keenum was under duress a few times in this one, the score sheet shows that Keenum was not sacked at all in this one. In a game that was largely dictated by the Minnesota defense, the offense did what they had to do in this one. A big part of that was on the offensive line.
Jerick McKinnon, RB: If not for the big fumble that shifted things from the Vikings being in the Green Bay red zone to the Packers getting their only touchdown of the afternoon, McKinnon potentially could have been a blue chip. However, he had a solid game overall, scoring both of Minnesota’s touchdown and having over 100 yards from scrimmage. The fumble, though. . .woof.
Laquon Treadwell, WR: I’m putting him here for this catch alone.
Latavius Murray, RB: While McKinnon has stepped up in the absence of Dalvin Cook, Murray has. . .well, not. He only had one carry less than McKinnon on Sunday (16 for McKinnon, 15 for Murray), but Murray’s 15 carries went for all of 28 yards. He had several plays where he took a handoff and appeared to just sort of stop in the backfield while getting dragged down for a loss. Murray signed a three-year deal with the Vikings this offseason, but he can be cut with no cap hit after one. If he wants to be back in 2018, he’s going to need to start stepping up.
Michael Floyd, WR: Floyd got the start in the absence of Stefon Diggs, and it may seem a bit harsh to put him here. But, if you’re going to start against a secondary that’s undermanned to start with, you’ve got to find a way to do better than one catch for five yards. He left during the game with an injury. Hopefully he and Diggs (or, you know, both) will be ready to go for next week against Baltimore.
Buy: Aaron Rodgers’ injury changed the game – Yes, any time a team loses one of the best quarterbacks of all time and arguably the best quarterback in the game right now, it changes things. Of course the game is different if Rodgers plays all four quarters but, well, he didn’t. And as a result, the NFC North and the NFC as a whole have both gotten a lot more interesting.
Sell: Rodgers’ injury is the only reason the Vikings won – Obviously, you’d rather face Brett Hundley than Aaron Rodgers. But, regardless of who was playing quarterback for the Packers, the Vikings’ defense is still really, really good, the Packers’ offensive line is still really, really not good, and the Packers’ defense was still short-handed. I thought Minnesota could win this one before the Rodgers injury, but we’ll never know. Oh, and if nobody noticed, the Vikings were missing a few guys, too (like their #1 quarterback and their #2 quarterback and their #1 running back and their #1 wide receiver and one of their starting safeties). But, you should be prepared to hear all about how the Vikings only beat the Packers because of the Rodgers injury for at least the next few days.
Buy: Mike Zimmer is a better football coach than Mike McCarthy – I mean. . .duh.
Sell: Mike Zimmer has all the nuances of coaching down – However, there are still things that Zimmer needs to work on as far as awareness. Specifically, I’m thinking of the play where Case Keenum hit Jerick McKinnon on a pass that, after watching the replay, hit the ground before McKinnon caught it, but the officials ruled a completion that went for a first down. Zimmer told the offense to rush to the line before the play could be reviewed. . .however, Mike McCarthy had already burned both of his challenges, meaning the play couldn’t be reviewed (fortunately for the Vikings). The Vikings wound up burning a timeout in that situation, and while it didn’t come back to bite them, it’s something that Zimmer (or someone on his staff) needs to be aware of.
Buy: The NFC North just got interesting – The Vikings and the Packers are now both 4-2, with the Detroit Lions at 3-3 after getting 53 points dropped on them by New Orleans today. Heck, even the Chicago Bears have decided to join the party, beating the Vikings’ opponent next week (the Baltimore Ravens) in overtime. With Rodgers likely not being back this season, this could come down to the Vikings and the Lions to battle this out. Yes, I know that when Rodgers got injured in 2013 the Packers won the NFC North, but that was largely because the Lions and Bears thought they would be generous and hand it to them. . .the Packers went 2-5-1 in the eight games that Rodgers missed.
Sell: Printing playoff tickets already – On paper, the Vikings should be considered the favorites in the NFC North. However, games aren’t played on paper. . .after all, the Detroit defense that got 53 points dropped on them by an offense that scored just 19 against Minnesota gave up all of seven to Minnesota a few weeks ago. The only thing that anybody knows about the National Football League is that nobody really knows anything about the National Football League. However, the Vikings should. . .should. . .be able to get to the bye week at 6-2 and then we get to see where things take us from there.
That’s my version of the Stock Market Report for this week, folks. Ted will be back in this space where he should be for the Ravens game. We’ll have some more on this one over the next day or two.
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