Reality Check for Minnesota Vikings May Be Blessing in Disguise for 2022 NFL Season (2024)

Reality Check for Minnesota Vikings May Be Blessing in Disguise for 2022 NFL Season (1)

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

Imagine, for a moment, the Minnesota Vikings entering the team facility in the aftermath of Week 11's embarrassing loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Hung on the wall are two panic meters with a 1-10 scale. The players and coaching staff glance at the short-term measurement, which is unconcernedly in the 1-2 range. After all, Minnesota is running away in the NFC North, still holding a commanding four-game advantage in a division filled with mediocrity.

Walk a little farther, though, and the feeling is much different.

The long-term outlook for these Vikings—who have sidestepped mini disasters all season—can no longer be overshadowed by the win column. On this second meter, the number has risen sharply. Pick your own landing spot, but the takeaway is clear.

Minnesota cannot keep doing the same thing and expect to legitimately compete for the Super Bowl this season.

Now, nuance is the word of the day.

Reality Check for Minnesota Vikings May Be Blessing in Disguise for 2022 NFL Season (2)

✨ Watch more top videos, highlights, and B/R original content Right Arrow Icon

One setback didn't ruin Minnesota's immense likelihood of reaching the playoffs. One disgusting loss didn't reveal the Vikings or first-year coach Kevin O'Connell as frauds, just as a season of close victories hadn't suggested they should be crowned the championship favorite, either.

But it's much tougher to convince someone of underlying flaws when a team keeps winning. The miserable performance at home removed that barrier in a painfully obvious manner.

So far this season, Minnesota's offense has basically been average in every way outside of elite receiver Justin Jefferson.

Kirk Cousins has managed an uninspiring 6.5 yards per attempt, the 28th-ranked mark in the league. Minnesota has one of the NFL's least explosive passing games, ranking tied for 25th in gains of 25-plus yards through the air. The offensive line has quietly been messy, especially without left tackle Christian Darrisaw for much of the last two weeks.

The rushing attack is highly inconsistent, failing to even crack 100 yards in five games. Minnesota's third-down and red-zone touchdown rate numbers are 21st and 14th, respectively.

In short, it's no surprise the Vikes endured a total meltdown. Those numbers all suggested it could happen.

Phil Mackey 🎙 @PhilMackey

Second worst home loss in Minnesota Vikings history. <br><br>Second only to a 42-point loss to the Cardinals on 10/6/63.

Plus, their absurd luck had to run out eventually.

Minnesota has already faced backup quarterbacks three times and needed fourth-quarter comebacks to clip the lackluster Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. Buffalo was missing four key players in the secondary and star Josh Allen fumbled at the goal line, giving the Vikings a most improbable lifeline in Week 10.

Dallas presented the sum of all fears—and the 40-3 result ended up even worse than thought possible.

Minnesota faced a healthy roster with a high-level quarterback and a sturdy defense. Dak Prescott picked apart a secondary that struggled behind a quiet pass rush. Led by All-Pro defender Micah Parsons, the Cowboys generated seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits.

Additionally, the Vikings finally dealt with a few injury concerns of their own. They felt the impact of missing Darrisaw, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler Sr. and Akayleb Evans at once.

While the health issues did not define the blowout, Minnesota had been exceedingly healthy in 2022. The team failed to respond to the injuries in a productive way.

Reality Check for Minnesota Vikings May Be Blessing in Disguise for 2022 NFL Season (3)

Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The overall tone from the loss has been highly critical, perhaps to a level seemingly too harsh for an 8-2 team. But the Vikings are chasing a Super Bowl; they must be judged on a championship standard.

Dallas made it clear Minnesota is not there.

The favorable remaining slate is a double-edged sword for the Vikings. Each of the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts have reasonably stout defenses, but none of the offenses are overwhelming. Every one of those matchups is at home, too. On paper, the best teams control those matchups.

Minnesota's hardest other remaining contest is either a home game against the flawed 7-3 New York Giants or a road game against the flailing 4-7 Green Bay Packers.

Until the postseason, Minnesota doesn't have many opportunities for a convincing win. Conversely, many of these contests are a chance for a disappointing loss.

O'Connell and his staff can no longer justify a shaky offense by pointing to a victory. Continuing to barely beat lesser competition would be evidence of little improvement, which has the potential to prove problematic in the toughest games—see Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, too—when the competition rises in the playoffs.

Cousins cannot rely solely on Jefferson. The offensive line needs to improve quickly. The defense must be able to deal with injuries, something that happens to every team.

Minnesota cannot keep doing the same thing and expect to legitimately compete for the Super Bowl this season.

But it's a whole lot better to recognize that in November than January.

Reality Check for Minnesota Vikings May Be Blessing in Disguise for 2022 NFL Season (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Aracelis Kilback

Last Updated:

Views: 6147

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Aracelis Kilback

Birthday: 1994-11-22

Address: Apt. 895 30151 Green Plain, Lake Mariela, RI 98141

Phone: +5992291857476

Job: Legal Officer

Hobby: LARPing, role-playing games, Slacklining, Reading, Inline skating, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Dance

Introduction: My name is Aracelis Kilback, I am a nice, gentle, agreeable, joyous, attractive, combative, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.