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Vikings at Commanders Week 9 Preview: While it Lasts

No matter how Sunday and the rest of the year unfold, Vikings fans should take the time to appreciate how fun the 2022 season has been.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Taylor Heinicke will try to kick in the door against his old team and lead the Commanders to a fourth straight win.
Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Minnesota Vikings are 6-1, but it still feels like their full record should be pronounced “yeah-they’re-6-and-1-but.”

Yeah they’re 6-1 but all five games of their current win streak have been one-score affairs that went down to the wire and could have easily gone the other way.

Yeah they’re 6-1 but the six teams they have beaten have a combined record of 18-29 this season.

Yeah they’re 6-1 but they’re about to face their third backup quarterback in five games.

Yeah they’re 6-1 but they have the third worst Football Outsiders DVOA of any 6-1 team dating back to 1981. Five teams with losing records currently rank ahead of them.

Yeah they’re 6-1 but c’mon—nobody is putting this team on the same level as the real contenders like the Eagles, Bills, and Chiefs.

Every time that anyone brings up the success of the 2022 Vikings through the first eight weeks of the season, it’s immediately met by more buts than a Sir Mix-A-Lot song. To paraphrase a line from Sir’s most famous ballad: this white boy’s got to shout.


Look, I get it: while the Vikings are on a roll, it hasn’t always been pretty. This team has an innate ability to let opponents hang around. Attempts to step on a team’s throat commonly end up like Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake. The Vikings have already had more nail-biters than an OCD convention.

But any longtime football fan can recite the Bill Parcells quote that has been hammered into our brains for decades. Say it with me now: “You are what your record says you are.” And the Vikings’ record says that they’re pretty damn good. Not only that, they’re pretty damn fun. After a lifetime of fandom littered with the Vikings grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, isn’t it nice to see the ball bounce their way a few times? Isn’t it great to see the culture that Kevin O’Connell and his staff have instilled permeating through all parts of the team so quickly? Isn’t it wild to see Greg Joseph miss crucial extra points and not have it come back to bite them in the worst way? Hasn’t it been wonderful to finally exhale after all these back-and-forth battles with an incredulous smile on your face and not have the smile sarcastically? Sure, the Vikings have a lot to clean up if they’re going to make any sort of postseason run this year. That other shoe could drop at any time—no fan base knows that as well as we do. But if you aren’t taking the time to truly appreciate how this season has gone thus far, you’re really missing out.

So go ahead and enjoy the trade for T.J. Hockenson. It’s exciting! The Vikings now have one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the league locked in for the next season and a half. They made a huge upgrade at a position that had been disappointing for a variety of reasons for quite a while. When you factor in where the Vikings and Lions are currently projected to draft next year, the trade compensation seems very reasonable as well. Even if the Vikings have to pay Hockenson at the top of the scale for tight ends after 2023, it might be a relative bargain considering how out of control the wide receiver free agent market is getting. Above all, the trade shows that the Vikings are going for it, as they should with what’s effectively a 4.5-game lead in the NFC North.

Speaking of the NFC North: go ahead and enjoy the Packers downturn while you’re at it. Feel free to revel in the fact that Green Bay is currently paying $11.3 million for Za’Darius Smith, the reigning NFC Player of the Week and Month, while he thrives in Minnesota. Yes, I realize that there are ten games left, and Aaron Rodgers has proven countless times throughout his career that reports of his perceived demises can be greatly exaggerated. But right now, the Packers are a pretty lousy team, and they didn’t do anything at the trade deadline to remedy that. So get your shots in on the Packers fans in your life now; they’ll still have their one clichéd “empty trophy case” comeback to cling to.

Instead of pondering all the realistic ways that the season could go south after hot starts like they did with the 2003 and 2016 iterations of the Vikings, why not dream of all the ways that the 2022 version could still get better? Kirk Cousins has been very reliable and has appeared to step up his leadership on and off the field. However, he isn’t really playing the best football of his career right now. If he can clean up the uncharacteristic inaccuracy that has cropped up from time to time and get to full Kirk Frickin’ Cousins Mode, this offense could really take off. Danielle Hunter initially struggled with his new role in the 3-4 defense, but half of his 26 pressures on the season have come over the past two games. He seems poised to get back to his usual amount of drive-crushing splash plays soon. Patrick Peterson is proving that Father Time is going to have his work cut out for him. Heck, even Garrett Bradbury has been downright respectable this season! (I can’t say as much about the guy that lines up to his right, but hey, Ed Ingram is still a rookie and has a good chance to improve down the stretch. In theory.)

Even if things go haywire down the stretch, the 2022 Vikings season has already been extremely enjoyable and memorable for me on a personal level. I was able to take my older daughter to her first regular season game, a wild comeback win over the Lions in Week 3. Two weeks later, I got last-minute tickets and took my younger daughter to her first game, a victory over the Bears. Between those two games, I spent the week in England with my wife and watched the Vikings beat the Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Last week, I enjoyed impossibly perfect late October weather during a morning of tailgating with my parents and siblings before watching another thrill ride win over the Cardinals. Regardless of the outcomes, I know how fortunate I was to attend four out of the past five games with every member of my immediate family. But to have the Vikings win all four of those games?! With that kind of luck, I should probably put a few bucks down on Saturday’s $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot.

It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from the past several weeks, but reveling in last week’s win with my mom was pretty special.

It was another Thompson first in a season full of them: it was my mom’s first game at US Bank Stadium. And like I said in the tweet, my mom’s a crier. Like, really a crier. I have seen her openly weep at commercials before. But she wasn’t crying because the Vikings won, or because of how ridiculous we looked with the Jared Allen mullet headbands they handed out at the game. She was mostly crying because of how great it was to experience such a fun and memorable day with her family. I hope we all have at least a few decades left, but let’s face it—nobody knows how many more opportunities we’ll have to do something like this.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because we’re never guaranteed tomorrow. We had a devastating reminder of that this week with the tragic loss of Adam Zimmer. My heart breaks for former Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his entire family. Losing both a wife and a son far too soon is unfathomably difficult to endure.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because we’re never guaranteed tomorrow. Amid all the joy and relief in the stadium last Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of a former coworker of mine. Before I left for my current company two years ago, I spent the better part of eight years having Chris as my go-to work buddy for water cooler sports talk. Nearly every morning, we’d stop at each other’s cubicles and rehash the latest Minnesota sports stories with each other. Mondays in the Fall and Winter were always our best conversations because we could either celebrate or commiserate about that weekend’s Vikings game. (I’m sure many of you are nodding along because you have friendships just like this at work. If you don’t, I highly recommend forming one. They make the daily grind infinitely more bearable.) Chris would even read all of my Daily Norseman articles and comment on jokes or takes that he liked.

Well, at least he claimed to like them, which isn’t surprising because Chris was always an impossibly nice guy. He was unfailingly positive and incredibly generous. Case in point: two days after I mentioned that I was looking for a new lawnmower, Chris told me he had a old mower in his car and he’d drop it off at my place after work. (Nearly a decade later, I’m still using that lawnmower.)

Chris even maintained his sunny disposition after being diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the eye, in June of 2019. A few weeks later, he had his left eye removed at the Mayo Clinic in hopes of curbing the spread. Miraculously, he returned to work just a few weeks after the surgery with an extremely realistic prosthetic. You literally couldn’t tell what he had just been through, both in appearance and attitude. He was immediately cracking eye-related dad jokes and putting everyone at ease. Instead of wallowing in his setback, he spent the next year golfing and running more. When COVID hit and forced everyone home in 2020, Chris and his family decided to relocate to Arizona to be closer to family and his son who was attending college there.

Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t seem to factor in how great of a person you are, because Chris shared that the cancer had metastasized to his liver just months after moving. He spent the next two years attacking the cancer with countless different treatments and therapies across Arizona, Philadelphia, and Minnesota. His wife kept us updated via a Caring Bridge site, and us former work teammates would touch base with him from time to time. When his wife’s update came in early October stating that doctors thought Chris only had a few months left, I immediately reached out. True to form, Chris instantly brushed the sad stuff aside and went right into talking Vikings like we were back at our old cubicles again. He asked how my trip to London was and explained that he and his youngest son watched the game together at 6:30 AM local time. He joked he wasn’t sure about introducing his son to a “lifetime of heartache”, but it was worth it to see the dramatic victory through a fresh set of eyes.

On October 21, 2022, we lost Chris. What I wouldn’t give to have been able to talk to Chris after the Vikings beat Arizona, where he lived and undoubtedly would have watched every play. think Chris would be pretty pissed at me if I just ended the article after bringing the mood down like that. I can just see him smiling and telling me to knock it off and get back to football if he was reading this. So I’ll make the clumsy transition in his honor and give my quick two cents on Sunday’s game.

A week after Peterson and Jordan Hicks had great games against the team they used to captain, Cousins could be in line for a similar Revenge Game against his old team, even if Taylor Heinicke is attempting a similar feat from the opposite sideline. Washington is currently 28th in pass defense DVOA. With Chase Young still likely to sit this one out, the Vikings should be able to find some success through the air, as long as Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen don’t wreak too much havoc on their own.

Of course, the Commanders are on a hot streak of their own, winners of three straight while ranking in the top 5 in yards allowed and third down defense over the past six weeks. Third downs will be paramount on both sides of the ball. Washington currently ranks 25th in third down conversion percentage, and we’re all aware of the three-and-out woes that have plagued the Vikings from time to time. The Vikings will need to keep drives alive and cash in on their red zone opportunities like they did last week, because these aren’t Carson Wentz’s Commanders from earlier in the season. Terry McLaurin is likely to give the Minnesota secondary just as much trouble as DeAndre Hopkins did last week. Brian Robinson Jr. has given the Washington offense another dimension on the ground while fellow running backs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic are always dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield.

In the end, I envision another one-score game—because it’s practically tradition at this point—with Minnnesota’s mismatches slightly outshining those of Washington. As long as the Vikings don’t get caught looking ahead to the buzz saw that awaits them in upstate New York next week, I think they’ll take care of business.

Enjoy the game on Sunday, and enjoy this Vikings season whether they’re 7-1 or 6-2 at the final whistle. It really is OK to have fun and appreciate the roller coaster, even as a Vikings fan.


Vikings 24, Commanders 20

And now for the rest of my Week 9 NFL picks (including Philadelphia’s win over Houston on Thursday):

Last week: 11-4
Season so far: 78-45-1