“A win is a win.”
After a 7-1 start to the Minnesota Vikings’ season, this phrase has been thrown around a lot. This is because of the quality of the wins that the Vikings have been accumulating. Their past six victories have all been decided by one score and their only win against a team with a winning record came against a team led by its backup quarterback. It is pretty easy to question the legitimacy of this Vikings team and poke holes in their resume.
November Could be a Rough Month
It is very difficult to have an optimistic outlook going into the next four games as a Vikings fan, with Buffalo, Dallas, New England, and the New York Jets on the upcoming schedule. This team will be tested more than it has in any of its previous wins. With a strength of victory sitting at a measly 0.387 (third lowest for teams with a record above 0.500), the Vikings have not proven that they are good enough for a 7-1 record next to their name. The level of play they have been putting out on the field the last few games will not be sufficient against four very tough defenses. Waiting until the last second to regain the lead against these teams may be too little too late.
Josh Allen has the Bills’ offense cruising. Buffalo is third in pass yards per game, while the Vikings are allowing the tenth most passing yards in the league. The Cowboys have a scary wide receiver room with CeeDee Lamb at the head, while they have not been firing on all cylinders through the air this year, their receiving room will cause matchup issues for the Vikings. The Vikings will need to shore up their secondary for the next couple of weeks, especially with Cameron Dantzler out, dealing with an ankle injury.
Reasons for Optimism
Za’Darius Smith has been an absolute wrecking force for this defense, disrupting plays left and right alongside his fellow edge rusher, Danielle Hunter. This duo has been deadly, combining for a total of 13.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. If these two can continue to Quarterbacks under duress, it will take some pressure off the secondary. And though the secondary has looked bad at times, rookie Akayleb Evans looked great on Sunday stepping in for Cameron Dantzler with a clutch stop on 4th down against Washington. Though a small sample size, the rookie from Missouri could be the boost that this secondary needs.
The offense has been great on opening and closing drives, with hardly anything in between. Finding consistency is going to be the key these next weeks, disappearing in the middle of the game will no longer be an option. However, the offense always seems to kick it into gear when they absolutely need to, if Kevin O’Connell and Kirk Cousins can flip that switch earlier in these games, the Vikings might just be a lot more competitive than expected. Being able to adjust when opposing defenses shut down Justin Jefferson will be a big part of flipping that switch. Kirk Cousins is going to have to rely on Adam Thielen a lot more in the coming weeks. T.J. Hockensen is a big reason for optimism, in just his first game with the Vikings he secured nine catches for 70 yards. As he learns the new system, he will turn into a huge threat over the middle that defenses will not be able to afford to ignore. Accounting for an offense with Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockensen, and Dalvin Cook will not be easy for any defense.
Vikings fans like to complain that this team is underrated and that they do not get enough attention for being the only one-loss team in the league. While the Vikings may deserve more national attention, that is not what Vikings fans should be asking for. Aside from Justin Jefferson’s flashiness, this team was built to fly under the radar. From Kirk Cousins’ primetime record to Dalvin Cook’s boring, yet productive running style, to Harrison Smith’s old-school safety play this team is not meant to make headlines. The Vikings were meant to do exactly what they are doing: win games.
While Vikings fans should be happy about the wins that the team continues to rack up, there comes a point where wins are not wins. A last-second win against a bad team is not going to cut it down the road. The playoffs are going to demand big-time wins against big-time teams. Something that this team has so far proven incapable of. The opportunity now presents itself for this team to prove that they can get a big-time win. If the Vikings can continue to accumulate wins over the next four weeks then the number in the win column will inspire confident joy rather than trepidatious happiness.