A win is a win, right? The Vikings played one of the least productive offensive games in team history, but still managed to come out on top, thanks to the absolute monster of a defense the Vikings are fielding right now.
Despite how hard it was to watch the offense struggle against the Raiders, I think we gathered some valuable information from this game: The Vikings’ defense is good. Like, really good.
Flores’ unit has allowed one touchdown in the past three games, none in the past two. Only three teams have managed to rush for more than 100 yards against them. And, they just shut out the Raiders, forcing two turnovers and producing four sacks in the process. It was Ivan Pace’s turn to have a breakout game, as the dominative linebacker led the team with 13 tackles, a sack, and the (pretty much) game-sealing interception. Oh, and he was just named NFC Defensive player of the week. How’s that for an undrafted rookie? On a day where the offense literally could do nothing, the defense won them the game.
Now, if Mullens can guide the offense to at least half of what it was with Kirk, the Vikings have a viable team. If the Vikings beat the Bengals on Saturday, I’d feel pretty good about their prospects heading into a crucial final three game stretch against the Lions, Packers, and Lions again. Your SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks
Ivan Pace Jr. - As mentioned in the intro, Pace had the best game of his career on Sunday. His PFF grade “paced” the team at 92.9. This guy went undrafted?
Josh Metellus - Metellus played every snap on defense. He graded spectacualrly in pass coverage according to PFF, scoring a 90.4, second only to Pace’s 93.3 coverage grade. Metellus has lined up all over the field, which makes it difficult for opposing offenses to predict what he’ll be doing.
Brian Flores - I already mentioned in the intro a few reasons why Flores deserves a Blue Chip. To put it simply, the Raiders scored zero points, which doesn’t happen often in the NFL. What will it take to keep him here next year? I’ll do anything!
DJ Wonnum - Wonnum turned up again on Sunday, registering another sack, his seventh of the season. He also scored the team best run defense grade at 80.8. He’s been filling in quite nicely for Marcus Davenport. Speaking of Davenport, where is that guy? Aren’t they paying him a bunch of money?
Nick Mullens - Mullens came in and did exactly what was expected of him: stand in the pocket and make throws. Nick isn’t the most electrifying, dynamic, or exciting player. But I’m confident he can guide the offense to the end zone, something they’ve struggled to do lately.
Alexander Mattison - Mattison actually had a pretty solid day, turning in 66 yards on 10 carries. He had an 88.4 PFF rushing grade to go along with his 77.4 overall grade, third best on the offense. Mattison was able to pick up chunks of yards on multiple occasions, which is great considering how hard its been to run the ball all season, and how many backups were playing on the offensive line at times.
Justin Jefferson - HE’S FINALLY BA- Oh, wait that’s right, the Vikings can’t have nice things. On just his second catch since returning from a hamstring injury, Jefferson was again injured and was even sent to the hospital as a precaution. Luckily, it sounds like he’s planning to suit up for Saturday’s game at the Bengals. In his 13 snaps, Jefferson looked close to his old self, and caught two difficult balls. I have a feeling he’s going to pop off on Saturday.
I honestly don’t know what to say here. The offense was anemic, and scored only three points, but I can’t put my finger on any one reason why. The pass blocking was suspect at times, but they were also playing their preseason starting five for most of the game it felt like.
Dobbs couldn’t move the ball, but he didn’t toss four interceptions again. Greg Joseph missed a field goal, but also scored the only points in the game. Kevin O’Connell made the wise choice of moving to Mullens when he needed to.
I don’t know, it was a pathetic offensive performance, especially out of the bye, so I feel like O’Connell and the offense deserve some sort of collective junk bond. But you know what? They still found a way to win... That has to count for something.
Buy / Sell
Buy - This was a crucial victory. The Raiders were probably the softest matchup left on the schedule, so leaving Vegas with a W was important in a tight race for the last two playoff seeds. It wasn’t pretty, but they got it done.
Sell - This should have been a close game. If Mullens started, I think the Vikings could have won 17-0. Nick Mullens may be the Dollar Tree Kirk Cousins, but he showed in his couple of series that he’s a more effective passer than Dobbs has been as of late. He’s less dynamic with his legs, but Mullens can run the offense like Kirk did, which is where O’Connell seems the most comfortable right now. Anyhow, with the way the defense was playing, this could have easily been a blowout by the Vikings.
Buy - The Vikings are in excellent playoff position. All of the chips fell in the best possible way this weekend, with everyone within a game of the Vikings in the NFC losing, giving the Vikings a one game lead on the field, and current sole possession of the sixth seed. This is very important, because the difference between the sixth and seventh seed could be either facing the Lions on Wild Card weekend, or traveling to Philly / Dallas.
I like our prospects against the Lions much more than the other two.
Speaking of the Lions, they also lost to the Bears on Sunday, meaning there’s just a two game difference between the Lions and Vikings in the NFC North standings. The Lions have four tough games remaining, (Broncos, Vikings, Cowboys, Vikings) and they’re looking vulnerable after a few sloppy games in a row. The eternal optimist in me wants to believe that the Vikings can make a run for the division crown, and Brian Flores and his defense is only affirming that belief.
Sell - The Vikings will make noise in the playoffs. With all that being said... I can see the Vikings winning their Wild Card matchup if its against the Lions, but there is almost no way they get farther than that. They would have to travel to play the Eagles, Cowboys, or 49ers, all of whom could demolish the Vikings in their home stadiums. But, anything can happen, right?
Thanks for hanging in there. Leave your assessments in the comments.