It seems a long time since the Minneapolis Miracle now, doesn’t it? But since Stefon Diggs reeled in one of the most memorable plays in football history, the Vikings have been a bit of a mystery.
The 2018 season started out pretty well with the freshly-minted Kirk Cousins ruling the offence well, averaging just under 25 points and over 370 yards per game, but after their Week 10 Bye, they dropped off to over 19.8 points per game, and 300 yards.
It didn’t seem like anyone had any answers, and the Vikings eventually toppled into obscurity. John DeFilippo took the fall, with many of the fans taking their ire out on Kirk Cousins. But obviously they didn’t look too deeply, because Cousins actually has some amazing statistics.
Cousins faced the second most quarterback pressures in the NFL, and has the least productive running game and a terrible offensive line. He had a TD/Int ratio of 3/1, which considering the pressure and lack of running game/OL, is fantastic, especially when coupled with the second highest completion percentage in the NFL.
You’re gonna blame him? You’re going to blame him despite his 5th place QB under pressure ranking, behind the 29th worst offensive line? I’m gonna say it; do you even football, bro?!
Yes, he could do better under the spotlight, and maybe there are questions about his ability to turn up in clutch moments, but you’re asking a pocket passer to do his job behind an offensive line that even veteran scramblers like Russell Wilson and Cam Newton would struggle behind.
But, anyway, now that I’ve fully explained my love for Kirk Cousins, we should get to the point of this piece: Where do they go from here?
Firstly, they need a running game. They need Dalvin Cook. He’s dynamic, elusive, a quality runner, and can catch out of the backfield. Having him at 100% behind Cousins is just a massive deal. It’s a release valve, a safety blanket, that can not only take a ball the necessary yards for a first down on a broken play, but can take it all the way to the house. I have a good feeling for him this year, and not just because I have him in two fantasy leagues. I think he’s going to be fit all year but I did touch the wood of the table as I typed this. I do like Alexander Mattison, but I think Cook is more than a band above.
The Offensive Line is still a problem, though, as they’re still ranked low at 25th in the league. That’s just not good enough considering how much they struggled there last year, and even Dalvin Cook can’t get started behind them if they’re going to struggle to create run lanes. Garrett Bradbury is a great addition but I don’t feel it’s enough.
Other than that, you can’t argue against just how good the Vikings are on both sides of the ball, with dynamic playmakers like Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes on D, and Stefon Diggs coupled with Adam Thielen on O.
Overall, this is an even tougher division than usual for the Vikings to navigate, especially if you factor in the Bears’ ability to chows up even some of the best offensive lines.
I can see them starting the season in a 1-3 hole after tilts with Atlanta at home, the Packers away, Oakland, and then on the road to the Bears, but after that, I can see them picking up multiple wins against the likes of the Giants, the Redskins, the Lions, and at home to Denver.
It’s the period after the Bye Week (Week 12) that will define whether the season is a success or not. They have two tough games on the road against Seattle in week 13 and then the Chargers in Week 15. Those are winnable games but I think it’s going to be a necessity they pick up a win in Seattle. Between those, I expect them to roll straight through a home tilt with Detroit. After the Chargers they see out the regular season with games at home against the Packers and the Bears. Both winnable games with that fierce home crowd and the blood-curdling Gjallarhorn to back the stars on the team.
I see this as a season finishing anywhere between a 9-7 and an 11-5, depending on whether they can get that offensive line working, and whether they can establish a running game. But ultimately, I have faith in Captain Kirk and his weapons on offence, coupled with a superb defence to carry them through to the playoffs.
They’re an exciting team when they’re on their game, and I hope to see them there.
Likelihood of making the playoffs: Average