The Vikings are surprising many despite significant losses at the quarterback and running back positions, starting the season 3-0.
The start of the 2016-17 NFL season was one of worry for the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings. Both teams entered Week 1 without their starting quarterback, with the Vikings scrambling to find a replacement to lead their offense. Three weeks into the season and all worry transformed into joy as both teams find themselves undefeated heading into Week 4.
Heading into the season, the Minnesota Vikings were dealt a crushing blow at the quarterback position, with the loss of their starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the entire season. Before the season even began, the Vikings’ franchise quarterback dislocated his knee with a complete tear in his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury he suffered during team drills.
The drama continued in Week 2 as the team’s star running back Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus, forcing the Vikings to place him on injured reserve. At the very least, Peterson will not be able to return until mid-November, but he is expected to miss more time, given that the recovery time for this kind of injury is typically three to four months.
The loss of the anchor to their offensive line, left tackle Matt Kalil, is further complicating things for the Vikings as he was placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in his hip.
Shockingly, even without Bridgewater, Kalil and Peterson, the Vikings have won their first three games, including an impressive win against the Green Bay Packers and a defensive beat down on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Newly acquired quarterback Sam Bradford has seemingly resurrected his career in the absence of Bridgewater, outplaying Aaron Rodgers during their Monday night primetime showdown.
Nonetheless, the team’s success can be attributed to a stout defense which effectively shut down the likes of Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin and Newton. The defense had a fantastic performance against the Panthers even without the key presence on the defensive line of tackle Sharrif Floyd, who will miss at least six weeks after having meniscus surgery this past week.
The Vikings’ depleted offensive line, which allowed the Panthers to inflict punishing shots on Bradford, got even worse on Sunday. Guard Alex Boone left the game with a hip injury and will have an MRI during the week to find out the severity of the injury.
While the Vikings’ chances of a deep playoff run with a depleted roster look less likely, the tremendous play of the defense and stellar play of Bradford gives them a fighting chance. If the Vikings get to the playoffs, Peterson could be back in time to rejoin the team for a playoff run.
The New England Patriots are another team entering the season without their franchise quarterback. New England typically has no issues with their quarterback Tom Brady who is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. However, with Brady suspended for the first four games, fans wondered who will play quarterback for the Patriots. Brady’s presumed successor Jimmy Garoppolo stepped in week 1 and put the fans’ worries to rest, engineering a late-game win against the Arizona Cardinals.
After winning the first game and giving the Patriots a huge lead against the Miami Dolphins, Garoppolo sustained a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder after being on the receiving end of a hard tackle.
Luckily, the Patriots drafted rookie Jacoby Brissett, who was picked out of the North Carolina State University in the third round.
Typical under Coach Bill Belichick’s regime, the Patriots routed the then-undefeated Houston Texans 27-0 in Brissett’s first career NFL start. However, after the win, the Patriots received the disheartening news that Brissett had torn a ligament in his thumb and may miss the last game before Brady’s return.
Some have speculated that wide receiver Julian Edelman, who played quarterback in college, could start the next game after acting as the emergency backup in last week’s game against the Texans. But, given his talents as a wide receiver and the fact that he is the only quarterback on the roster, the team may sign another quarterback to start Thursday’s game if Brissett is not able to play.
Nonetheless, Patriots fans are rather comfortable heading into Week 4 against a weak Buffalo Bills team. No matter who is on the field for the Patriots, Belichick is able to find a way to win, and easily at that. When Brady missed the entire 2008 season due to a torn ACL in his knee, backup Matt Cassel led the team to an 11-5 record. Since that season, Cassel has played on numerous other teams and has failed everywhere else except for New England.
Facing adversity heading into the season, the Vikings and Patriots have responded tremendously. The Vikings hope to ride Bradford’s wave for the remainder of the season, with aspirations that he may join the team in the long-term to backup Bridgewater for seasons to come. However, nothing is set in stone, as Bradford has been known to play inconsistently throughout his career. Even more, back-up running backs Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata are better suited for redzone situations, and it is unknown how they will preform on a three-down basis. As for the Patriots, Brady will soon take the reins, and it will be a surprise to see the team skew from its winning ways.