Points on the Purple: Will Vikings make a statement with new coordinator?
LIMBECK: Well Captain Purple, a lot of fans are probably feeling blue about the Vikings during the holiday season. But those fans MIGHT have gotten an early Christmas present. After last week’s offensive non-showing against Seattle, the Vikings fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was in his first season in Minnesota. Now Kevin Stefanski steps up from quarterbacks coach to the hot seat of being the offensive coordinator.
FELDMAN: There are no miracles to be had with the Vikings offensive line and a QB whose decision making is suddenly as competent as a St. Bernard’s. But Stefanski brings a calming voice, a familiar voice, to the offensive huddle. He can’t change the personnel, but he can change how the personnel is used. Dalvin Cook is too talented to only touch the ball 14.9 times per game (his average this season).
LIMBECK: Stefanski will be calling plays for the first time, but he is no rookie. He is a 14-year coaching veteran in the NFL. I don’t think the fans are expecting miracles, but hopefully Stefanski can show the defenses a few different looks and formations, especially on short-yardage situations.
FELDMAN: Adam Thielen is too talented to touch the ball 5.8 times per game (his average over the past five games) and Stefon Diggs is too talented to be targeted less than 8 times per game, as has been the case over the past three games. New England coach Bill Belichick showed the blueprint for slowing those playmakers — double-team Diggs and Thielen and let a four-man front expose the Vikings’ offensive line. Stefanski’s biggest task will be making the run game serviceable. That’s the only way to take pressure off the passing game.
LIMBECK: The Vikings are sitting at 6-6-1 as they get set to host 7-6 Miami on Sunday. This will be the first time the Vikings are not playing in primetime in a month, and that’s not a bad thing. The Vikings were just 1-3 in those games and have lost two straight. The Vikings are trying to hold on for the sixth and final playoff seed in the NFC and they still control their own destiny. The Vikings have not beaten a team with a winning record this year. Right now the Dolphins have a winning record, although they are hardly a powerhouse. And the Miami rush defense is ranked No. 29 in the league, that’s a good sign, right?
FELDMAN: Considering the Vikings rank No. 30 in running the ball, Sunday’s game could be less entertaining than a Kirk Cousins interview. The Dolphins not only have a winning record, but it’s a record that includes wins against Chicago and New England. They’ve also been abysmal on the road (1-5, the lone win a 20-12 victory against the Jets in Week 2). There isn’t a single offensive player who sticks out as a guy who has to be stopped. Their leading rusher (Frank Gore) has no TDs. Their leading receiver (Danny Amendola) has 479 yards and 1 TD. Their defense has given up the seventh-most points and fourth-most yards per game in the NFL. Ryan Tannehill is its QB. This team is the definition of ‘meh.’ Yet it has found a way to stay in every game and keep itself in the AFC playoff picture.
LIMBECK: Tom Brady did throw for 358 yards and three TDs against the Dolphins last week. And now Miami’s underwhelming defense might be depleted in the secondary. The Dolphins’ top cornerback, Xavien Howard, is listed as doubtful for Sunday and safety TJ McDonald listed as questionable. Howard has a league-high seven interceptions. That’s going to make it a lot tougher to slow both Thielen and Diggs.
FELDMAN: I want to pick the Purple this week, Helmet Hair. I want to believe in our club, that the offense will have some fresh air injected into its lungs with Stefanski’s promotion. I also want to believe that Santa will finally bring me the Han Solo Millennium Falcon I asked for 30-some years ago. Love the Millennium Falcon.
It’s taken decades, but I now realize that hope is a dangerous thing when attached to space ships and the Vikings. The Purple still might make the playoffs, despite being a really hard team to watch over the past month. But until we see some convincing changes on offense, my hope and belief in this team is almost nil: Dolphins 19, Vikings 16.
LIMBECK: It’s so sad that you were denied that Millennium Falcon as a young lad. It says something about your low expectations, especially when expecting the Vikings to win. But the Dolphins got their Christmas miracle last week with a bizarre walk-off touchdown to beat the Patriots. Miami will be in for a letdown on the road while the Vikings are 4-2 at home. The Vikings are going to ride high with a revved up offense and there will be plenty of holiday cheer at U.S. Bank Stadium: Vikings 33, Dolphins 17.