I have to start by saying I’m very happy Minnesota beat Green Bay on Sunday. I must also say it’s funny what professional football has turned into. Fantasy, gambling, advanced analytics, and the red zone channel has completely changed the game.
The last 2 to 3 weeks I’ve sat here and scoffed every time the Vikings twitter page has updated me on Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen being the top two ranked wide receivers in football according to Pro Football Focus. Three questions always came to mind right after I’d see that…Do we have a quarterback who can get it to them? Wait, what’s our record again? And how many of the statistics they’ve built up to get them to where they are have come during meaningful times in a game? (As opposed to during a blowout).
After this week against Green Bay I have a 4th question.
When the Viking win, whether it’s how they want to win or how they need to win, it looks like how the game played out Sunday:
Adam Thielen 3 catches 27 yards, Justin Jefferson 3 catches 26 yards, Kirk Cousins 11/14, 160 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT 0 FUM.
Dalvin Cook 30 carries 163 yards 3 TD’s, 2 catches 63 yards 1 TD.
When you give the ball to your best player over 30 times good things are gonna happen. It eliminates Cousins having to throw 30 times in a game, which significantly decreases turnover probability, considering he leads the league in interceptions this season.
The formula for winning in the NFL is very simple. Over the past five seasons teams who have won the turnover battle have won the game 76.8% of the time. It’s just never brought up. If it was, they’d have no reason to do all these meaningless pre and post game shows that carry all sorts of meaningless stats and analysis. If everyone could just show up and say “If team X wins the turnover battle team X will win the game” every Sunday it wouldn’t make for interesting television. Plenty of folks would be out of a job. You couldn’t go to Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms for excellent points of analysis like “The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger and if he has a big game I look for the Steelers to do well,” In that scenario.
I look at Pro Football Focus ratings the same way as I look at Bill Cowher’s pre-game analysis. I don’t.
In order for the Vikings to win this year the blue print was yesterday. It was against a good team with a damn good qb. Down 7-0 and 14-7, when it seemed like there would be no end to the Packers scoring in site, Minnesota’s offense just kept getting the ball to Dalvin Cook. They never wavered from that. When the third and fourth quarter came around the Vikings were able to get a couple of key and fluke stops, which allowed the offense to put them up 28-14. And ultimately they were able to hold on and survive long enough to win 28-22.
That’s how it’s gonna have to be done this year if they want to have a chance to make a run at the playoffs (more on that in a minute). They need to be mistake free. They don’t need to get too cute on offense and try to catch the defense off guard with play-action as much as they have done in the first 6 games. They just need to keep giving it to Cook, even if everyone knows that’s where it’s going. Make them stop it, then make them stop it again. And the defense just needs to keep finding a way to survive right now.
At 2-5 their next five games are Lions, Bears, Cowboys, Panthers, Jaguars. Not exactly murderers row. If they can’t go 5-0 or 4-1 against those teams, any chance of sneaking into the playoffs goes out the window.
But if they follow the blueprint from Sunday at Green Bay, utilize it during this five game stretch, and get a bounce to go their way here and there, they could find themselves right in the mix, and still have a shot at making the post-season.