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Q: Is the NFC really that difficult? The Vikings would be in much more of a playoff fight in the AFC this year. — Ivan
AK: Through the first 10 games, the NFC playoff field is certainly an easier fight than the AFC. If the Vikings keep winning at Denver on Sunday night, the question might become how high can they climb in seeding? With two games against Detroit at the end of the season, the Vikings have a chance to remain in contention for the NFC North. Ahead of them in the wild-card chase are the Cowboys (6-3) and Seahawks (6-3). What the Vikings have going for them are a relatively easy slate ahead — at Broncos, vs. Bears, at Raiders — and six NFC wins that are tied with the Eagles for the most. Then come the late-season chances to prove their mettle against the Bengals and Lions (twice).
Head coach Kevin O'Connell has quipped about the attention last year on the Vikings' mediocre point differential next to a 13-4 record. This year, their point differential — plus-24 — is better than their current seeding, ranking fifth in the NFC; it would tie for seventh in the AFC with the Chargers.
Q: Will the Vikings still be in the market to select a QB high in the 2024 draft? And if so, does the prototype change based on having a mobile QB now running the offense? — @tua76466_g
AK: The Vikings still have seven games and a potential postseason to answer whether they'll want to reboot at franchise quarterback via the NFL Draft. Perhaps Joshua Dobbs can continue to win over decision makers at TCO Performance Center; winning can do that. But there is something to be said for Dobbs showing Vikings coaches "what mobility, in addition to what we do offensively, can do for us," O'Connell said after the Saints game.
"As a play caller, you can start to feel, 'I can call anything on this call sheet,'" O'Connell said. "But I want to be smart and make the calls that reflect my intentions of trying to attack certain looks. And then when Josh makes a play, it's a huge, huge bonus. ... Josh, in two starts, has kind of shown us what mobility, you know, in addition to what we do offensively can do for us in this tough time where we're trying to overcome the loss of a guy like Kirk."
Q: Any news on Marcus Davenport's status? — Jim
AK: Davenport underwent what's known as a "tightrope" surgery after the Oct. 15 high ankle sprain, and O'Connell said this week he's unsure when the edge rusher will return. But the team expects him to be back at some point this season. Davenport has two sacks in three-plus games this year. He's flashed the talent that led the Vikings to signing him to a one-year deal with $10 million guaranteed. But a right ankle injury days before the season opener undercut his debut, and this left high ankle sprain has sidelined him for more than a month. Edge rusher D.J. Wonnum has been solid in his stead, ranking second on the team with 23 quarterback pressures including five sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
AK: The Vikings did it! The direct snap to running back Ty Chandler, who ran for a 2-yard touchdown against the Saints, marked Minnesota's first rushing touchdown from inside the opponent's 5-yard line this season. It was their 11th try. The goal-line running woes have stemmed from overwhelmed interior blockers. Running backs can't get to the edge if there's a defender running straight at them up the middle. O'Connell leaned on trickery from the 2-yard line, where he put three-receiver personnel (a pass formation) but had big-bodied N'Keal Harry blocking on the edge and left tackle Christian Darrisaw pulling. Chandler's speed to the pylon was reminiscent of Dalvin Cook's scores under Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak. More of that might help.