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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Forget last year’s champs, quarterbacks still rule in post-season

By Matthew Coller

Last year the stars aligned for a broken-down Peyton Manning to win a title in his final NFL season, but this year’s playoffs is reminding us that quarterbacks still rule the day.

Before we even dig into the numbers, think of all the things that had to go right in order for the Denver Broncos to raise the Lombardi Trophy last season. They played the Steelers without Antonio Brown, the Patriots missed an extra point, the turf at the Super Bowl was sub-par, causing Cam Newton’s linemen to slide around on skates.

Not to mention the Broncos’ defense wasn’t just the league’s best, but possibly the best the NFL had seen since the 2000 Ravens won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer under center.

Take nothing away from Denver, but every team with a sub-elite quarterback held up the Broncos’ victory as a reason that fans should believe in their 2016 chances. Yet here we are, with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger left standing.

But it isn’t just that great quarterbacks are going deep in the playoffs. Quite a few of the league’s best defenses didn’t even make the playoffs, including Denver, who ranked No. 1 in the Football Outsiders statistic DVOA.

In fact, by DVOA, which adjusts yards for factors like game situation, only three of the top 10 defenses in the NFL made the playoffs and the No. 2 ranked defense was the New York Giants, who were demolished by Rodgers.

The Seahawks made the postseason with the fifth overall defense in DVOA and Houston got into the dance with the seventh best. Of course, Seattle has Wilson, who single-handedly dragged his offense into the playoffs despite the league’s worst offensive line (yes, worse than the Vikings) and Houston plays in an abomination of a division in the AFC South.

The best three offensive teams by DVOA – Atlanta, New England and Dallas – not only made the playoffs but are the favorites heading into the divisional round as the favorites.

This is the recent history of the NFL in a nutshell, save for last year’s big game. Since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe, the AFC has been represented in the Super Bowl by either Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Manning every year except 2012 when Joe Flacco took home a trophy.

The only team left with a good defense and awful passing offense – as Denver was last year – is the Houston Texans. And if they win the Super Bowl, bless the few Texans fans who will win life-changing money betting on them because they have the same odds of winning it all as Brock Osweiler does of getting hit by lightning and winning the lottery at the same time.

Put it this way: If your team has an elite offense, you have a better chance to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl than if you have an elite defense – by far.

So what does that say about the Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota?

Under Zimmer, the Vikings have ranked 27th, 29th and 28th in total offensive yards and 27th, 25th and 21st in Net Yards Per Pass Attempt.

Sam Bradford isn’t going to suddenly become Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, but the question is whether he and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can find a way to at least move the Vikings up into the top half of the NFL. Can improvements to the offensive line and the full implementation of Shurmur’s offense result in the Vikings getting to the top 15?

It’s a hard question to answer because there isn’t a perfect example recently to point toward. Both Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan had down years, then bounced back to being top-notch quarterbacks, but they each had incredible seasons in the past and found their form again in 2016.

Stafford just needed a new OC. Since Jim Bob Cooter took over in Detroit, the Lions’ quarterback has 43 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and averages 271 yards per game. His massive turnaround may have been unexpected, but Stafford had thrown for over 5,000 yards with 41 touchdowns in a season in 2011.

Ryan has never had a season this good before, but did post 4,719 yards, 32 touchdowns and 7.7 yards per attempt in 2012.

Bradford has not shown that he is capable of elevating from mid-pack to top notch. Before this season, his best year was 2015 in which he still only managed 7.0 yards per attempt, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Maybe the idea of Bradford raising his play enough to have an elite season isn’t realistic. Could he get into the range of quarterbacks who can make the playoffs under good circumstances? Probably. And Bradford and Shurmur will have to find a way because there won’t be another 2015 Denver Broncos again soon.

But here’s the bigger question: Is it better to have a quarterback like Bradford who is good enough to make the playoffs when things go right or should the Vikings keep looking until they find one that can get them into the range where almost nothing can derail a playoff spot?

The post Forget last year’s champs, quarterbacks still rule in post-season appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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