My apologies for the tardiness of this week’s Power Rankings Roundup, folks. Yours truly has been traveling across the country for a family event and have not been around as much as I generally am during the week. But, we’re getting to it now, so let’s see what finally getting into the win column has done for the purple in the eyes of pundits everywhere, shall we?
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: #19 (Last week: #25)
Dalvin Cook has come alive the past couple weeks and Justin Jefferson has been a revelation (it’s damning that the coaching staff didn’t give full-time snaps to their first-round pick until Week 3). All of a sudden, the Vikings’ offense isn’t too bad. The defense needs to improve, but maybe it’s not too late to get back into playoff contention.
Nate Davis, USA Today: #20 (Last week: #22)
Nice for Minnesota to get into win column. Next, Mike Zimmer’s inexperienced corners get thrown into the fire against Russell Wilson.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: #22 (Last week: #28)
The Vikings have accepted their defense can’t stop much so they have broken out of their offensive shell, getting more aggressive in the passing game without losing the explosiveness and important balance provided by Dalvin Cook and their running game. It’s a glimmer of hope for Mike Zimmer’s team to get back on track.
Danny Kelly, The Ringer: #18 (Last week: #24)
Minnesota dug itself into a pretty deep hole with an 0-3 start, but the team’s offensive explosion in the past two weeks should provide a glimmer of hope to Vikings faithful that contention is still a possibility. After posting 464 yards and 30 points in a loss to the Titans last week, the Kirk Cousins–led unit fired on all cylinders again in Minnesota’s 31-23 win against Houston on Sunday, getting 100-plus-yard performances from each of its top two receivers and its running back for the first time in almost 20 years. Dalvin Cook (27 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns) and Adam Thielen (eight catches for 114 yards and one touchdown) led the way, and were bolstered by another scintillating outing from first-round rookie pass catcher Justin Jefferson, who reeled in four passes for 103 yards. That trio helped the Vikings outlast a desperate comeback bid by the Texans―and could give Cousins the type of playmaking nucleus the veteran quarterback needs to truly thrive.
Cook is the foundation for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s run-centric philosophy. He’s an elusive, shifty runner who consistently gets more yards than what’s blocked for him (which is important with this shaky Vikings offensive line). The newly paid runner racked up a ridiculous 10 missed tackles forced on the day, per Pro Football Focus, which was tops among all backs this week (pending Monday night’s games). Thielen, meanwhile, is as reliable as ever, a technical route runner who still boasts the speed to take the top off a defense. He’s Cousins’s go-to guy in key situations, and currently ranks as PFF’s no. 2 graded receiver. Oh, and as for no. 1?
Jefferson is certainly not a one-to-one replacement for Stefon Diggs, but his emergence in the past two weeks has opened up the Vikings passing game, giving opposing defenses another dangerous receiver to worry about while helping take the focus off of Thielen alone. But crucially, the team has utilized more deception in its scheming, too, upping the frequency of presnap motion and finding a groove in the play-action passing attack. As ESPN’s Courtney Cronin points out, Cousins went a cool 9-of-11 for 180 yards and a touchdown on play-action passes against the Texans on Sunday, a massive improvement compared to the team’s previous three games combined (8-of-16). It’s pretty clear: The Vikings put together a blueprint for how to claw their way back into contention on Sunday.
Minnesota still has some holes; there’s no way around it. The team’s offensive line is an issue, Cousins can be erratic at times, and the defense has struggled―though, with the latter, you could probably say the same for something like 29 or 30 teams through the season’s first four weeks. But in the year of the buzz saw offense, the Vikings showed on Sunday that they just might have the talent to claw their way back into the playoff race in the NFC. Next up, the Seahawks’ wet paper bag of a pass defense.
Reddit: #21 (Last week: #21)
To make things fair after the news of Earl Thomas, the refs decided keeping Harrison Smith in the game wouldn’t keep things close enough. Dalvin Cook and rookie phenom Justin Jefferson are doing everything in their power to back up Mike Zimmer’s mouth, when they do this is one of the most dangerous 1-3 teams in the league.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: #25 (Last week: #30)
Matt Williamson, Pro Football Network: #18 (Last week: #22)
The Vikings finally got their first win over Houston, who has yet to say the same thing. Dalvin Cook continues to have an excellent season, gashing a bad Texans run defense for 130 yards. A second big game in a row by Justin Jefferson is great to see. He complements Adam Thielen perfectly and giving this offense enough of balance, often off play action. The Vikings had the ball for 36:31 in this game, which is exactly how they need to play. They’re 18th in these NFL Power Rankings headed into Week 5.
Dan Hanzus, NFL.com: #17 (Last week: #20)
The Vikings took their season off life support with a narrow win over the Texans, and it looks like Gary Kubiak’s offense has found its footing. It all goes through Dalvin Cook, of course, the superstar running back who never seems to get the pub of his similarly gifted contemporaries. When Cook (130 yards rushing, two TDs) is right, it makes life much easier for Kirk Cousins, who — for all his strengths — isn’t the type of quarterback who can put an offense on his back. There are still concerns about the defense, which needed a goal-line stop in the final minute of the game (aided by an overturned Will Fuller touchdown reception) to avoid a consecutive second-half collapse.
MMQB, Sports Illustrated: #18 (Last week: #24)
The passing game came to life on Sunday, and Justin Jefferson looks like he’s ahead of schedule as Diggs’s replacement.
ESPN: #21 (Last week: #21)
FPI chance to make playoffs: 22.7%
The Vikings grabbed their first win of the season by beating an inept Houston squad. And still, Minnesota couldn’t close out a team it had a 31-16 lead on with 10:50 to play without a late-game scare. So this seems right. Kirk Cousins is correct: Any time a team can score 30 points and put up 400-plus yards on offense, it’s doing something right. That is part of the Vikings’ blueprint for winning games, but until this offense can routinely win shootouts against other high-octane offenses, the Vikings’ playoff chances look dim.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: #23 (Last week: #29)
They got their first victory over the season to save it, but now have to go out on the road again to play the Seahawks. That won’t be easy.
Bleacher Report: #18 (Last week: #22)
When the 2020 season started, this looked like one of Week 4’s bigger matchups—a clash between two teams that each won a playoff game last year.
Instead, both teams had yet to taste victory this season.
The visiting Vikings were able to get win No. 1 thanks to a huge game from tailback Dalvin Cook, who amassed 146 total yards and two scores. The team also got some clutch play from quarterback Kirk Cousins, who found star wideout Adam Thielen for a big second-half score.
However, at least one of our analysts didn’t see this as anything more than a mediocre Minnesota team beating a bad Houston one.
“Sure,” Davenport said, “it was nice to see the Vikings finally break into the win column. But the Vikings have to travel to Seattle and to Lambeau Field over the next three weeks. 2-5 isn’t going to look much better than 1-3.”
However, another analyst thinks the Vikings may not be done after all.
“I still sort of believe in the Vikings because Kirk Cousins still has a super-high ceiling when things are going well, and Justin Jefferson looks like an absolute star,” Gagnon said. “In a 14-team playoff field, don’t count Minnesota out.”
Sheil Kapadia, The Athletic: #16 (Last week: #23)
This will make Vikings fans very uncomfortable and maybe even angry. I’m sorry, but EPR doesn’t hate your team. It thinks the Vikings are perfectly mediocre. Minnesota’s offense looked good in its Week 4 win against the Texans, and rookie Justin Jefferson might be this year’s version of A.J. Brown. Among the 106 wide receivers who have run at least 50 routes, Jefferson ranks first in yards per route run, and he’s tied for the league lead (coincidentally with Stefon Diggs) with eight catches of 20-plus yards.
Associated Press: #22 (Last week: #27)
No commentary, as usual.
So, the Vikings got a nice little bump up the ranks from their victory over Houston on Sunday, though they’re still well into the bottom half of the rankings. Their average overall ranking this week is 19.86, about four and a half spots higher than last week’s average of 24.14.
Here is this week’s graphic, which you may click upon for the purposes of embiggening if you are unable to see it clearly in its present state.
That’s your Power Rankings Roundup for this week, folks. It would be nice to see that upward trend continue when we get together and do this next week, but whether it does or not, we’ll be here with the Roundup.