It’s probably just a bump on the road to the AFC championship game — and their true strength probably should be well inside the top 10 — but still, Week 1’s results mean something, and their defense could be a cause for concern heading into a matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
Strength: Where do we begin? You can point to the team’s star-studded offense, Minnesota’s ability to overcome key injuries or the franchise’s rock-solid, slump-proof and resourceful coaching staff, led by Mike Zimmer. It all starts with the defense, though, which has held teams to under 20 points in a whopping 12 games. If the pass rush hasn’t quite been itself over the past two weeks, the Vikings still have reliable, Pro Bowl-level talent at every level. Beyond the team’s nasty front seven, the back end of this unit — led by cover man Xavier Rhodes and sensational safety Harrison Smith — has the raw power to frustrate a high-flying team like the Rams in January.
Weakness: I don’t see an overt weakness on this roster. Don’t tell me this year’s Case Keenum isn’t a Super Bowl quarterback, either, because he’s done nothing but magnify the play of his skill-position players. When Keenum ran into trouble in a Week 14 loss to the Panthers, his six sacks charted back to a banged-up offensive line currently missing left guard Nick Easton, who went on injured reserve on Dec. 26.
And while most of the social media commentary from those in the NFL — whether that be posts from players across the last few days or statements from a large handful of NFL owners — have supported unity and demonstrations during the national anthem, it has not all came to that conclusion. In a statement released to ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Sunday morning, Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said, in regards to kneeling during the anthem, “I just feel it’s disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their lives and it’s maybe the wrong platform.”
Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Hogan returned from a four-week absence following a shoulder injury, only to have a quiet game in Week 14. Tom Brady and New England typically play well following a poor performance, so if you buy into the bounce-back performance theory, then Hogan is a candidate for Week 15 success. It’s the biggest game of the season for the Patriots; their opponent, the Steelers, just gave up a big outing to Joe Flacco. All that sounds like a recipe for success for Hogan; some pundits are optimistic and believe he’s worth starting given his early-season production. Hogan remained limited in Thursday’s practice, but nothing points to him having issues suiting up for this weekend’s game.