The Vikings Could Be a Playoff Berserker, but Their Season Will Likely End in Heartbreaking Fashion
The Vikings offense is getting hot… so hot that they COULD move the ball against nearly any team in the NFL. Dalvin Cook is one of, if not the best, running backs in the NFL. Adam Thielen is a dangerous wide receiver and is an unbelievable red zone threat. Justin Jefferson is having an amazing rookie season that is destined for the Vikings’ and NFL’s record books. Kirk Cousins has evolved his game to be more mobile in the pocket, can extend plays while adjusting for poor offensive line play, and has looked incredible over the last half of the season. Although many of these things are going right, there are so many other things going wrong that have led this team to a 6-6 record on the year.
Don’t get me wrong, the fact that we’re 6-6 is a big deal. After starting 1-5 this team looked dead to rights. The injury-riddled, inexperienced defense could not put together any solid play from the corner position or from a pass rush standpoint. The Yannick Ngakoue trade didn’t have as big of a splash that we needed and we moved on for less draft capital than we gave up for him. The 2020 season appeared to be a tragedy.
Recently, though, things are turning around. Cameron Dantzler has put together a string of solid games and is looking like the corner that our coaches and players were praising in training camp. Jeff Gladney has been coming along by developing those Zimmer corner tendencies: sure tackling and tough to beat coverage.
This young and inexperienced defense is coming along and making strides. If these young Vikings can stay healthy and keep developing, I really like our chances to be a middle of the road, bend-but-don’t-break defense. A promising defense combined with an elite offense seems like a sure fire recipe for a nice run in the playoffs. This is a team that could be a berserker that any team (cough…the Saints…cough) should be worried about. There are just a few things that could sour that idea and lead to a disappointing end for the season.
There are 3 things that could eventually lead to our demise:
1) Special Teams
We’ve tweeted (@BlessTheKneesB3) our concerns about the special teams over the past several weeks. Our punting unit has been middle of the road at best this season. The Vikings have some very suspect gunners on the outside of the punting team that are fast but have no idea what to do when they get to the ball (ex. Dan Chisena). Our punt returning and kick returning has been straight up awful and back breaking in moments where we need consistency.
We have 34 punt return yards this season. Yes, you read that right, 34 yards total. Anytime there is a high stress kick return or punt return I am constantly praying in hopes that we do not fumble the ball. K.J. Osborn does not look comfortable back there and when we have tried others it has not looked great. I’m one more fumble away from personally contacting Marcus Sherels to just have him come in to fair catch the damn ball for the rest of the season. This unit is putting our offense and defense in terrible positions throughout the season and I fear this could be a reason we miss the playoffs or have an embarrassing first round exit.
2) Predictable Play Calling on Offense
This one is hard for me because I’ve been singing the praises of this offense for most of this season. In my eyes, Dalvin Cook is the key to this offense being so successful, but our coaches lean into predictable play calls that really reduce the capability for our players to make plays. Everyone knows that Zimmer and Kubiak want to run the ball. ALL. THE. TIME. Especially on first downs. Defenses will stack the box and we refuse to check out of a run or adjust. I wonder if this is because Kirk is so game plan heavy and wants to just run what is called, or if they are specifically telling him not to check out of anything.
There are times where the LOS (line of scrimmage) is packed but the corners are backing off so they can account for a potential deep play. How about we check into a quick pass! Hit Thielen or Jefferson on a slant to gain 5-6 yards instead of gaining 1-2 yards max against a stacked box. I would love to see Kirk make some adjustments based on what he is seeing so that we can run an efficient and smart offense. It appears that we play some of our best football recently when we are down by 2 or more scores. What if we played like this at all times? I’m hoping to see some changes on offense, but it’s unlikely with how conservative Zimmer and Kubiak are.
3) Letting Off the Gas with a Lead
This has been one of the most frustrating things with Zimmer at the helm of this team. Once we have a lead, our offense turns into a very predictable Run-Run-Short pass team that leads to a 3 and out more often than not. Zimmer gets too conservative and really limits our offensive capability. I can understand trying to protect the ball to limit turnovers but this young and inexperienced defense has yet to prove it can get stops when we need it, especially in one score games.
Zimmer and our offensive staff need to realize we need to hold the ball to give our team the best chance for victory. Get Dalvin Cook with a screen pass or hit some quick short routes. Do things that will catch the other team off guard. If we continue to play the philosophy of “Not Losing the Game,” we will be “Not Winning the Game” and watching the playoffs from the couch. Trust Kirk Cousins. Trust this Offense.
I will continue to root for this team every single week, even though it gives me anxiety and chest pains at times. There are a lot of positives happening for this 2020 Vikings team after a dreadful start and we are currently in the 7th seed of the NFC playoff picture. The Vikings could be an absolute force in the playoffs but they need to address all of these factors to sniff a playoff appearance, let alone a deep playoff run. SKOL.
For more content, follow us at @BlessTheKneesB3 for updates, live game tweets, and links to our podcast breaking down the games, the NFL, and other things!
Also available almost anywhere else podcasts can be found.