The Minnesota Vikings were favored in the NFC Championship Game last January in Philadelphia. The Eagles won that game two weeks before they claimed their first Super Bowl title with a win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
Now, off those kind of results, we can rely on long established patterns that suggest the Vikings bounce off that loss with a renewed sense of purpose and an even better record this year than last … perhaps a trip all the way to Super Bowl LIII.
But, the Vikings have not come together this year and yet lived up to their preseason hype. In fact, through five games, Minnesota has allowed more points than they have scored while compiling a 2-2-1 record. This drop in production for Mike Zimmer’s team is no doubt unexpected in the Vikings organization, and very much a surprise to me too.
First of all, I thought the Vikings made a bold and effective decision to drop all three quarterbacks on their roster in 2017 in favor of free agent acquisition Kirk Cousins. Two years ago, Minnesota lost Teddy Bridgewater to injury and traded for Sam Bradford as a stop gap measure. Bridgewater was still rehabbing last year and when Bradford went down with an injury the team turned to backup Case Keenum.
In other words, Minnesota was saddled with three quarterbacks they couldn’t count on. Bridgewater and Bradford based on injuries, and an unwillingness to tag Keenum as their franchise savior even though he guided them to an 11-3 record in his 14 starts last year.
Cousins had made the Washington Redskins a threat and was expected to enjoy even more success when surrounded by better personnel on his new team.
Instead, the defense that ranked number one last year in the NFL is playing below average this year. And their offense, has not hit any stride with injuries at the runningback position and an inconsistent Cousins.
So, what now for the underachieving Vikings?
After winning last week in Philadelphia, a revenge game for their loss last January on the same field, Minnesota returns home for the first game in front of their home fans since a stunning loss to the Buffalo Bills. Following a hardfought tie against NFC North Division rival Green Bay in second week action, the Vikings must have figured they just needed to show up the next Sunday and punch a win. You can hardly blame them, they were favored by 16½ points when the Bills visited Minnesota.
Hey Vikings, need a wake up call?
How about getting clobbered by the Bills on your home field, 27-6.
Few things can more quickly erase hype with determination than an embarrassing home loss. In 1994, the San Francisco 49ers dominated football enroute to their romp over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. But, early in that season, after San Francisco had split their first four games against the point spread and were 3-1 straight up they met the Eagles in San Francisco with romp on their minds.
There was a romp that Sunday afternoon at Candlestick, but it belonged to the underdog Eagles who blew the Niners out, 40-8.
That loss served as a catalyst for the 49ers efforts, and after that one sided defeat to Philadelphia in Week Five, San Francisco won 13 of their next 14 games, including their 49-26 romp over the Chargers for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Vikings were on the road for a Thursday night game after their loss to the Bills, and got edged by the still undefeated Los Angeles Rams. Last week, in Philadelphia, the Vikings picked up their second win of the season at Lincoln Financial Field.
Now, back home, Minnesota meets the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals picked up their first win of the season last Sunday in San Francisco and now look to challenge a Minnesota team that is locked in a tough division battle with the improved Chicago Bears and always tough Green Bay Packers.
By my charts, five weeks of work in the regular season should be enough time for Cousins to established a working relationship with his receivers, and the Vikings defense, underperforming early on, should be primed for a statement game against an opponent simply overmatched by both talent and situation.
Qoxhi Picks: Minnesota Vikings (-10) over Arizona Cardinals