1st Down: The 2022 Minnesota Vikings have a bad defense. I think that is pretty well-understood at this point. As a unit, the D is 31st—that’s one small step from the league basement—in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed. The defense corroded under the last few Mike Zimmer seasons and is now in the weird zone of trying to run a new 3-4 scheme with all of that "old crew". They essentially have four solid d-unit skill players—Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, & Patrick Peterson—and patches or young guys everywhere else. Yet, somewhat remarkably, someone or something steps up nearly every week to make a big play when absolutely needed. Against the New York Jets, it was the goal-line stand and then Cam Bynum’s pick to seal it one possession later. The term "bend but not break defense" is often over-used or jokingly applied to certain teams, but the Vikings are personifying the term perhaps as never before.
2nd Down: There’s two ways to look at this Jets contest. One is that when it comes to the playoffs, teams like Dallas, Philadelphia, and/or San Francisco (Garoppolo or not) are likely not going to settle for five field goals. In that sense, the Vikings simply have to play better than what we saw yesterday. But there is an optimistic approach here, which is to say that the defense is learning how to win these tight-knit endgames. There really shouldn’t be any sphincter-tightening in a close postseason affair because that has quite literally been experienced almost every single week in ’22. It is sort of an odd dichotomy—the Vikings will likely have to play better to make a legitimate Super Bowl run, but if they do find themselves in one of those patented one-score games, how could you bet against them this year?!
3rd Down: Kirk Cousins played very poorly (21-35, 173 yards, 1 TD, 2 sacks) against a stout New York front. He was probably the most inaccurate I’ve seen him all season—consistently sailing throws to open receivers. But I do have to credit his toughness. This was a little different than the Dallas disaster, where Kirk was often pressured before his drop was complete. Instead, it was more a scenario where Cousins had just enough time to get a throw away knowing he was going to get crunched as soon as it happened. This was a frequent occurrence, regrettably. Yet, I did not see any signs of panic or "deer in the highlights" behavior. He simply took the hits—with the arc of the pigskin being far less predictable than usual. Good to see such toughness; a bit terrifying to know that a QB injury sends everything into flames.
4th Down: Four weeks ago, the conversation was all about how the upcoming Buffalo-Dallas-New England-New York Jets stretch was going to be a season-definer. 2-2 would have been fine and even 1-3 would have been acceptable. O’Connell’s bunch went 3-1. Still a lot of regular-season football left to be played and much to be improved upon (see: literally every Daily Norseman post since Week 1), but this team somehow weathers every storm thrown at them. That has to count for something in the grand scheme of things—right?! A lot of fun to watch and lot to feel proud about regardless of what the outcome will be.
Up Next: @ Detroit Lions (5-7). I can honestly say I’m more concerned about this game than the Patriots or Jets contests. Why? Because the Lions can seriously light up a scoreboard—and do so with the run game as their primary building-block. Perhaps the smell of an NFC North title (attained with a victory over the Motor City Kitties) can jump-start the Vikings offense and allow them to keep up.