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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Past Cowboys, weak schedule leaves door open for Vikings

By Matthew Coller

At one point in the season, the Minnesota Vikings’ Dec. 1 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys looked like it would be a collision between the two best teams in the NFC. Well, things don’t often work out how we expect. Now the game is a battle of two clubs going in opposite directions. The Vikings have dropped five of six while the Cowboys have won 10 in a row. So Thursday’s game is a mismatch, but the Vikings’ schedule over final four games gives them an opportunity to save their season.

The NFL stats website Football Outsiders has a statistic called DVOA, which grades teams’ results based on their strength of opponent and several other factors explained here. The average DVOA rank of Vikings opponents over the last four games is 25th.

The Vikings have struggled offensively this season, currently ranking 27th in Football Reference’s Expected Points statistic and 30th in yards per play. But in Minneosta’s final four games, their competition has an average rank of 23rd in Expected Points on defense.

Defensively, Mike Zimmer’s team has not been as good recently as they were in the first five weeks, but they still sit third in Expected Points and sixth in DVOA. The defensive unit will go against two poor offensive teams.

Let’s have a look at how each breaks down:

Week 14 at Jaguars

The Vikings defense, which ranks 1st in the NFL in Net Yards Per Pass Attempt (yards per attempt factoring in sacks), will go against one of the league’s worst quarterbacks. Blake Bortles is only ahead of Case Keenum, Carson Wentz and Ryan Fitzpatrick (two of the three were benched) this year in the ESPN stat QBR. He has an 80.0 rating, which might have been good in the 1980s, but not so much in 2016. The only thing the Jags will be playing for is to save the job of their coach Gus Bradley, who is 14-44 as a head coach.

Offense: 26th in expected points, 29th DVOA

Defense: 15th in expected points, 15th DVOA

Week 15 vs. Colts

If Andrew Luck is out of concussion protocol and back under center, the Colts’ offense can be dangerous. The former No. 1 overall pick ranks 8th in QBR this year and has his second highest career yards per attempt. However, the Colts showed exactly how good the team around their quarterback is on a Thanksgiving Night blowout at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even with a great QB, Indy’s defense is pathetic. Opposing quarterbacks have a 104.9 rating against them.

Offense: 13th in expected points, 15th DVOA

Defense: 31st in expected points, 31st in DVOA

Week 16 at Packers

When the Vikings beat the Packers in Week 2, the victory looked a lot more shiny than it does now. The Packers’ offensive statistics are decent, but there has been much consternation over the disconnect between Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy. Green Bay’s defense has been their bigger problem as their secondary is as messy as Minnesota’s offensive line. The Pack are allowing the most adjust yards per pass attempt in the NFL.

Offense: 7th in expected points, 12th DVOA

Defense: 28th in expected points, 18th DVOA

Week 17 vs. Bears

The Vikings took at beat down at Soldier Field on Haloween night, but the Bears will have a different look the next time the two teams match up. Instead of Jay Cutler under center, it will be Matt Barkley, who has shown no signs of being an NFL-caliber quarterback. The Vikings have also changed offensive coordinators since the first game, so Chicago will see a different version of the Minnesota offense that they pressured and sacked so easily in Round 1.

Offense: 28th in expected points, 22nd DVOA

Defense: 18th in expected points, 19th DVOA

The post Past Cowboys, weak schedule leaves door open for Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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