The Minnesota Vikings are currently tied for the NFC North lead and compare favorably with Super Bowl-winning teams from the recent past.
13 weeks into the 2019 season, the Minnesota Vikings currently find themselves tied for first in the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers. The problem is, like most of this season, the position feels a bit precarious.
Next up for the Vikings is another “prove it” game, not only for quarterback Kirk Cousins but for Minnesota’s defense as well. It is another prime-time road game for the Vikings, as they head to Seattle for a Monday night matchup with the Seahawks.
This will be yet another tough test for Minnesota. The most recent came in Dallas two weeks ago against the NFC East-leading Cowboys. At the time it was a chance for Cousins to prove he could win a nationally televised game on the road against a team with a winning record.
For the Vikings as a whole, it was a chance to put them squarely in contention, to not only make the postseason, but be a threat in the playoffs this year. Unfortunately, since then the Cowboys have dropped to 6-6, leading one of the worst divisions in the NFL, some of the luster from Minnesota’s win as disappeared.
While the Vikings have won as many games so far this season as they did last year when they finished with a disappointing 8-7-1 record, not a whole lot seems better for them than last season—yet.
Cousins is on pace to pass for 4,007 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just four interceptions—numbers that would match and exceed his performance from last year. Yet there are still plenty of detractors waiting for him to turn the corner and prove he is capable of leading a winning team.
A career record of 42-40-2 does not project well for many so-called experts. Like Minnesota, Cousins will need to prove himself against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks this week.
However, no matter the outcome of their upcoming game, the Vikings are still well-positioned to make the playoffs and once the postseason begins, anything is possible. As Adam Patrick pointed out last week, there are plenty of reasons to believe in Minnesota this year.
In fact, comparing Cousins and the Vikings to the last 10 Super Bowl winners looks extremely encouraging. The past 10 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks include five getting their first championship—three of those after spending more than five years in the NFL.
Drew Brees took a 55-51 record into the 2009 season when he helped the New Orleans Saints win it all. Aaron Rodgers, heading into his third year as a starter, had only a 17-15 record going into 2010 when he led the Green Bay Packers to their most recent Lombardi Trophy.
The thought of Cousins leading the purple to the Promised Land is not as outlandish as many so-called experts would have one believe. After all, if Eli Manning can do it twice with a career record of 116-116, then why not Cousins?
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings defense seems more suspect than it has during the last few years—especially in stopping the pass. When looking at the starting roster over the last three seasons, there are incredibly nine consistent starters since 2017 when Minnesota went 13-3 with the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
Since then, the Vikings passing defense has dropped and is currently ranked 20th in the league. Minnesota’s run defense took a dip in 2018 when they fell to 15th. But they rebounded so far this season and are currently sitting with the sixth-best unit in the league.
In 2017, #RhodesClosed often trended on Twitter. Now, however, the same Twitterverse is heavily criticizing Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes who is having arguably his worst season since becoming a full-time starter in 2014.
Head coach Mike Zimmer, known as a defensive genius, needs to find the right strings to pull that will essentially bring the same roster of starters back to the dominance they displayed in 2017.
Again, looking at the Super Bowl winners during the last 10 years, there are plenty of examples that indicate the Vikings can be in the mix to win their first-ever championship and remove all the baggage from the psyches of so many long-suffering Minnesota fans.
The common adage is that defense wins championships and among the past 10 Super Bowl-winning defenses, only twice did they finish the season tops in fewest total yards allowed. In addition, only two of 10 brought the lowest-scoring defense into the postseason. In fact, four defenses ranked 17th or worse in total yards allowed—one of them was last season’s New England Patriots who ranked 21st.
Over the last 10 seasons, the Super Bowl-winning defense has averaged a ranking of 12th in total yards and eighth in points allowed. The positivity in all of this is the Vikings currently rank 15th in yards and sixth in points, giving them a defense that should be capable to win it all.
Of course, there are still five games remaining for Cousins or Minnesota’s defense to mess things up and sink the entire season. No doubt this is what many of the long-suffering Vikings fans are expecting. That way if anything else happens, it will be pleasantly surprising.
I realize, like everything in this world, the disclaimer that past performances do not predict future returns is especially true in the NFL (any given Sunday), but why not?
After all, Minnesota did the improbable by defying the odds in Week 11 when they came back from 20 points down at the half to get a win over the Denver Broncos, something 99 other teams had failed to do when trailing by such a large deficit. Anything might be possible for the Vikings this season—at least until the next loss.