The Vikings head down to the 305 (aka what rapper Pitbull calls Miami, Florida) this weekend to take on a Miami Dolphins team that has suddenly been ravaged by injuries. From quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater to running back Raheem Mostert to left tackle Terron Armstead to cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, this is a team not at 100% by any means.
A relatively healthy Vikings squad, whose only truly questionable players are third-stringers in outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum and cornerback Akalyeb Evans, should beat an injury-ravaged Dolphins team rather handily, right?
Not so fast.
Yep, I’m gonna say it: this weekend’s game is perfectly set up to be a trap game for the Vikings. Here are a few reasons why.
Reason No. 1: The Dolphins Offensive Firepower Shouldn’t Be Overlooked
I know, I know, I know. The Dolphins will be starting a third string QB in Skylar Thompson against what is a white-hot Vikings squad at the moment. But let’s not forget how good this Dolphin offense is when it’s firing on all cylinders.
Though neither are currently at 100% at the moment, the combination of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle could devastate a mostly-young Vikings secondary whose only good players seem to be Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Smith. Andrew Booth is still a rookie who is coming off a four-game absence, and veterans Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan have struggled significantly in coverage this season. Dantzler and Smith seemingly being the only good players in this secondary is a significant issue against a duo whose speed alone could single-handedly engulf this unit of the defense.
Speaking of speed, you know who else can devastate you with his speed? The aforementioned Raheem Mostert. Ask Packers fans what they remember about their 2019 NFC Championship Game loss, and their answer will be Mostert. His speed at the running back position could devastate a Vikings front seven that got gashed on the ground last week by running back David Montgomery. And Mostert is just as good if not better than Montgomery.
Yes, it will hurt that the Dolphins’ top offensive players are not at 100%, and they are starting a third-string quarterback. But don’t let their injuries make you overlook the high-octane potential this offense has. Against an up-and-down Vikings defense, this unit could EXPLODE out of nowhere.
Speaking of the Vikings going up against backup quarterbacks…
Reason No. 2: The Vikings Have a Well-Documented History Of Playing Down To Backup QBs
Since the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins in 2018, they have one game a year where they for no reason at all play down to a backup QB or a rookie making their first start. I’ll give you a few examples for further context.
Who remembers the game where now-Bills superstar Josh Allen, who was borderline awful during his first two seasons in the NFL, came into U.S. Bank Stadium as a rookie and absolutely LIT UP the NFL’s top-ranked defense from a season ago in a game where Minnesota was favored by a whopping 16.5 points? Scoring three total touchdowns, Allen was excellent against Minnesota’s then-elite defense as the Bills claimed a 27-6 win that was the league’s biggest upset in a decade.
Who remembers in 2019 when the Vikings, traveling to Kansas City to face a Patrick Mahomes-less Chiefs team, allowed journeyman Matt Moore to go up and down the field and complete 71% of his passes for 275 yards and a touchdown as he led KC to a 27-24 upset win?
In the past two seasons, the Vikings have played the Dallas Cowboys without Dak Prescott. How many wins did they get in two games against Andy Dalton and Cooper Rush? ZERO. Dalton and Rush drove the Cowboys offense up and down the field in both games against the Vikings and the Cowboys notched upset wins in both games. Some of this was also due to offensive ineptitude by the Vikings offense, but a lot of that was also on the defense.
I know those four losses came under former coach Mike Zimmer and it’s a new defense and a new system, but I just don’t trust the Vikings against a backup QB. If you include the Allen game, we’ve had a four-season span where the Vikings lose one game a year to a backup.
Reason No. 3: For Some Reason, The Vikings Can’t Win In Miami
The Vikings have played five games in Miami to date. They are 1-4 in those games, with the only win coming in 1976.
The most recent Vikings-Dolphins game in Miami was an offensive shootout that saw the Dolphins overcome an early 14-0 deficit and prevail 37-35. A blocked punt by the Dolphins in the fourth quarter that went out of bounds in the end zone for a safety proved to be the difference.
Fun fact: the 2014 game saw longtime Viking safety Harrison Smith set a new single season career high in interceptions, which he has since tied twice (2017 and 2020), when he intercepted former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter of that game.
In 2006, the Dolphins prevailed 24-20 in another close game between the two franchises. That game saw both teams explode for 24 combined points in the fourth quarter, with a Jason Taylor pick-six off Brad Johnson sealing the victory for Miami.
I’m not going to discuss the other two losses in Miami, as those games were played in 1988 and 1982. But one of them did end in a blowout 24-7 win for the Dolphins (which was the 88 game).
Reason No. 4: A Familiar Former Viking Will Be On The Opposing Sideline
For the third time in his career, former Viking fan-favorite Teddy Bridgewater will be up against the team that drafted him. Bridgewater and the Vikings have split the previous two contests, both of which were held in Minneapolis, with the New Orleans Saints snagging a 30-20 win in 2018 and the Vikings hanging on for a 28-27 win over the Carolina Panthers. Bridgewater backed up Drew Brees in the win, and started for the Panthers in the loss.
Although Bridgewater was drafted by the previous regime, there are still quite a few holdovers from the teams he was on from 2014-17. Smith, along with wide receiver Adam Thielen and edge rusher Danielle Hunter, make up the holdovers from Bridgewater’s time in Minnesota and it is to be assumed that he will likely have intel on those three players. He could potentially help the Dolphins limit the impact of all three players in this coming game.
Likewise, it can also be assumed that those three Vikings will have intel on Bridgewater and his playing style. However, even if Bridgewater was to clear concussion protocol, he will be backing up Thompson on Sunday.
Reason No. 5: Is It Possible The Vikings Will Look Ahead To The Bye Week?
It is normal for NFL teams to look ahead to marquee opponents, but with the Vikings’ bye being next week, is it possible that they are looking ahead to the week off?
Reminiscent of last year, the Vikings have made a habit of taking their games down to the wire so far this year. These wild finishes to their games could leave the team wanting to refresh and recharge before a Week 8 home game against Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.
Plus, the amount of injuries the Dolphins have at the moment, the Vikings may just want to look ahead to the bye and completely overlook the Dolphins. It’s a bad idea altogether, but also a very possible scenario. We’ve seen it happen many times where a superior or healthier team overlooks a supposed inferior or injured opponent and it comes back to bite them ten folds.
While it isn’t typical for teams to look ahead to the bye week, don’t be surprised if the Vikings do so on Sunday, especially against an injury-plagued team that is seen as inferior to the Vikings by many journalists at the moment.
With all this being said, you guys can probably assume who I’m leaning towards winning on Sunday.
My pick? Dolphins 26, Vikings 24.