Ah, the midterm report card. For some, bringing it home meant having your straight-A report card shoved into your sibling's faces on the refrigerator door for the next couple months.
For the Minnesota Vikings, the midseason report cards can go several different ways. For some, a slow start has been followed with a white-hot second quarter of the season and for others, they've just been good the entire year.
With the Vikings 6-2 and in the thick of the NFC playoff race, many of their key players are in good shape heading into the second-half kickoff with Kansas City this Sunday. I figured it was a good time to draw attention to those who are excelling and also to those who simply aren't making the grade.
KIRK COUSINS: B
Cousins' performance is a lot like a good friend of mine back in the day. See, he knew how to read in kindergarten, but the teacher he had didn't like the fact that he was smarter than her. So, she flunked him and after holding him back for a full year, he turned out to be a pretty good student.
After flunking his first year (and the first four games this season) with the Vikings, Cousins has a chance to be a model student for Kevin Stefanski's offense in the second half.
DALVIN COOK: A+
Cook is like that super awkward person in high school that turned out to be a supermodel after you dumped them at prom and never called again.
After some Viking fans wanted to write him off after his back-to-back injured campaigns, Cook leads the league in rushing with 823 yards and also has a league-high nine touchdowns on the ground, making him the face of the franchise. He shows no signs of slowing down.
ADAM THIELEN: A
Still a reliable target for Kirk Cousins and if you didn't hear, he played at Minnesota State Mankato, where he probably had a straight-A report card.
STEFON DIGGS: B+
Diggs is playing like the kid who got Cs, but the teachers knew that with a little coaching, he could reach his full potential of becoming an A student. After nearly forcing himself off the team, Diggs has erupted for a franchise record 452 yards over the past three games and should continue to rack up yardage if his quarterback doesn't fade.
KYLE RUDOLPH: D
If we were discussing Rudolph's ability to become a $36 million version of Jim Kleinsasser, we'd give him an A+
THE OFFENSIVE LINE: B-
Overall, the offensive line has looked great as Brian O'Neill has picked up where he left off and Garrett Bradbury has improved after a rocky start. The one concern is Pat Elflein, who seems like the kid who just kept saying "I like pancakes," but his grades were magically good enough to let him play on Friday (or in this case, Sundays).
DANIELLE HUNTER: A+
Hunter is playing like the All-State phenom that stole your girlfriend, stole your friend's girlfriend and then stole the opposing quarterback's girlfriend. He's an absolute freak.
ERIC KENDRICKS: A
Bravo to Kendricks for having a bounce-back season. After looking a bit sluggish last year, he's rebounded in a big way and is Pro Football Focus' second-highest graded linebacker. We're not quite sure what that means, but we think it's good.
XAVIER RHODES: D
Rhodes is like the kid who keeps faking he's sick to avoid a big test. Quarterbacks are completing passes at will in Rhodes' direction (an 85% completion rate according to PFF) and the Vikings will need him to rebound or try to replace him with Holton Hill, who was smoking in the boy's room during the first half.
HARRISON SMITH & ANTHONY HARRIS: A
Both Smith and Harris are still really good at football and mesh well with each other. There's no joke about it. With Smith laying the lumber and Harris bringing the coverage skills, the back end of the Vikings defense looks terrific.
MIKE ZIMMER: B
The teacher that brings everything out of his students. After a near rebellion in the first four games, hopefully everything comes together for a happy "graduation" to Super Bowl champions this winter.