The Minnesota Vikings are 7-1. For the first time in 13 years, the Vikings have won 7 out of their first 8 games, but despite having the second-best record in the entire National Football League; the Vikings do not seem to be the second-best team in the entire National Football League.
The last 6 Viking victories have been one-score games, and against teams that have a combined record of 21-32 – making Minnesotas’ impressive 7-win record slightly less convincing. By no means are the Vikings a poor team, but if they wish to continue their win streak against some of the league’s best teams, changes need to be made.
It doesn’t take an expert to understand that the Vikings’ offense is not quite living up to their nightmarish potential. Players like Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and now T.J. Hockenson are among the most talented players at their position, led by the ever-underrated Kirk Cousins, and with an attack-minded head coach at the helm, the Vikings should be disappointed with their total offensive output so far. Despite having one of the most electric running backs in the league, the Vikings have one of the weakest rushing attacks in the NFL. Averaging 102 rushing yards per game (24th in the NFL), the Vikings have failed to move the ball on the ground with consistency, preventing them from holding possession and controlling the pace of games. This creates very short drives that allow opposing defenses to get off the field quickly and remain fresh deep into contests.
All of this would be rectified if the Vikings’ air attack was unstoppable, but that is not the case. Minnesota ranks 24th in passing yards per attempt, and have been unable to utilize their threatening receiving weapons with consistency. Justin Jefferson does have the second most receiving yards in the league, but the Vikings have been unable to establish a rhythm with their passing attack, preventing him and the other Vikings receivers from maximizing their yard totals and building leads. It is also important to consider that the success of the passing game is reliant on the rushing game and vice-versa. If the Vikings would commit to the run game and start to find some stability, they could more easily balance their playcalling and make it harder for defenses to game plan against them. This would also ideally reinvigorate the Vikings’ signature play-action dominance and allow themselves to sustain drives and manage the pace of the game.
Another one of the most glaring issues with the Vikings’ offense is their ineptitude during the 3rd quarter of games. Minnesota is the 3rd worst 3rd quarter team in the league, shockingly averaging less than 3 points per game in the 3rd. The Vikings have a positive point differential in every quarter aside from the 3rd, where they have -33 (Brian Asamoah must like all these 3s). These detrimental slumps are a large reason that the Vikings find themselves in close games every single week; they spend the first two-quarters building and maintaining a lead, then consistently surrender that lead in the third, forcing themselves to pull out a 4th quarter comeback because they unnecessarily allowed the opposing team to crawl back into the game during the 3rd.
While the Vikings’ offense clearly needs to step up their game ahead of a tough upcoming schedule, the defense is by no means free of criticism. It is very impressive that the Vikings only have 1 loss despite their defense ranking 25th in the league for opponent yards per game (368.1), and 22nd for opponent yards per play (5.7). Most of the yards given up by the Vikings have been through the air, as they allow the 3rd most yards per pass in the league at 7.4, and have shown that even the most mediocre offenses can freely move the ball down the field and get into scoring position. The Vikings have yet to face an overwhelmingly high-powered offense and have still been unable to prevent touchdowns – especially in the red zone. The Vikings are the worst red zone defense in the NFL, allowing opposing teams to score touchdowns 78.95% of the time.
This defense certainly has the personnel to dominate games – and they have come in big in several key moments so far this season. They simply need to build on what they have been doing well so far – like stifling the run game and preventing excessive 3rd down conversions – and work to mitigate the damage done through the air by continuing to pressure and sack quarterbacks. This young Minnesota secondary has plenty of room to grow and improve game-to-game, and it is imperative that this entire defense elevates their level of play once they share the field with teams like the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Vikings have shown that they know how to win games, but they still have more to prove before they want to be considered the most dominant team in the NFL.