It is time for me to eat a little crow. At the beginning of the 2017 NFL season, I saw the Vikings as a .500 team and a big reason for that was the brutal second half schedule. I said several times that this team would have to get to at least six wins in the first eight games because they had a brutal road slate after the week nine bye. Alas, the boys in purple have proven me dead wrong.
In the first five games coming out of the bye, the league gave Minnesota the unenviable task of four road games against good opponents. The one home matchup in that stretch was with the division-leading Rams. I said if the Vikes came out of that 2-3, they would be in good shape. They are one win at Carolina away from going 5-0.
And they are winning these road games convincingly. All three road wins so far have been decided by a single score but there was no question in any of them who the better team was. Atlanta’s explosive offense looked anemic in their own building. The Detroit and Washington defenses each allowed 30-plus points. Minnesota has completely stamped out their opponents’ homefield advantage.
How are they doing this? The easy answers are two cliches: “Defense travels” and “Get off the bus running.” Obviously, the Vikings do both of these well. To call their defense great would be an understatement as they have elite players at all three levels. Oakland Raider Latavius Murray has finally resurfaced.
But their road success is most attributable to one word: efficiency. Specifically, third down efficiency and turnover efficiency.
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Minnesota is number one in the NFL in third down efficiency on both sides of the football. On defense, it is not even close; they have allowed a conversion rate of just 27.2 percent. Second place is Denver with 30.2 percent. When a team has the ability to keep drives alive on offense and kill them on defense, it frankly does not matter where the game takes place. The same goes for turnovers; Minnesota is third in the league with just 10 giveaways. Simply put, they rarely shoot themselves in the foot.
With four games to go, the Vikings are suddenly in position to grab the NFC’s top seed. They still have two tough games remaining: this week in Carolina and week 16 in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers’ possible return. But they have already shown that venue does not matter. The double bird has already been flipped at the NFL schedule-makers who back-loaded their road games.
Despite being a team of anonymity, the league is starting to take notice: Vegas odds-be-damned, home turf does nothing against this Vikings team.
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