Minnesota has jumped out to a 5-0 start thanks to its dominant defense and the strong play of Sam Bradford at quarterback. Here are five questions for the team on its bye as it readies for the middle portion of the 2016 schedule.
Can the defense sustain its dominant start?
Minnesota has improved to become one of the best defenses in the NFL since head coach Mike Zimmer took over in 2014 and has been especially stout to start this season. The Vikings are allowing an average of 12.6 points per game, best in the NFL, and have 12 turnovers forced and 19 sacks. Minnesota hasn't led the NFL in scoring defense since 1971 and before last season hadn't finished inside the top 10 in that category since 1998. Zimmer's defenses have ranked in the top 10 in the league in points allowed seven times since he became a defensive coordinator in 2000, an indication that the Vikings should be able to continue at least to some extent their defensive success.
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Can Sam Bradford keep playing at an All-Pro level?
Bradford has completed 70 percent of his passes in his four starts and has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions. He ranks second among qualifying quarterbacks with a quarterback rating of 109.7 and second in completion percentage, both of which stand to be career highs. All of this comes despite playing for his third team in the past two seasons. Bradford has never played on a team that finished the season with a winning record, which may explain why he has experienced such a resurgence with the Vikings. Of course, Bradford won't go through the season without throwing an interception, but there's no reason to think he can't continue to efficiently manage the offense and make throws down field.
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What will the team do to improve the offensive line?
The Vikings started Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, Joe Berger, Brandon Fusco and Andre Smith on the line to start the season. Kalil and Smith are now on injured reserve, while Fusco left this past Sunday's game with a concussion. T.J. Clemmings has struggled filling in at tackle for Kalil, while backups Jeremiah Sirles, Zac Kerin, Nick Easton and Willie Beavers have a combined 12 games of NFL experience. The unit has allowed 27 quarterback hits this season and has struggled at points to protect the injury-prone Bradford. Minnesota signed former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long this week; the 31-year-old left tackle could help stabilize the unit.
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How much will injuries affect the team's performance?
Minnesota has weathered injuries to Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil and Sharrif Floyd, among others, but depth could become an issue if the injuries continue. The Vikings have already placed nine players on injured reserve this season, compared to eight each of the past two seasons. How many more injuries can they endure before showing cracks in the armor?
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What will happen with Blair Walsh?
The fifth-year kicker ranks 27th among qualifying kickers with a field-goal percentage of 75 (9 for 12) and an extra-point percentage of 83.3 (10 for 12). The struggles come after Walsh missed the game-winning field goal in Minnesota's wild card loss to Seattle last season. Walsh made four extra points and a field goal in Minnesota's win on Sunday, but fans continue to hold their breath every time he lines up for a kick. Walsh got a vote of confidence, of sorts, from general manager Rick Spielman, who said of the kicker: "I've been pretty patient, especially with these young guys, and last week he kicked the ball well. We'll monitor that as well, but we don't have any plans of bringing in a kicker at this point."