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Detroit Lions Week 9 scouting report: The Minnesota Vikings are better than their record

The Vikings are as dangerous as a 2-5 team can be.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings have to be considered one of the most disappointing teams of 2020. Sure, there were plenty of warning signs that the Vikings would regress in a big way this year, but I’m not sure anyone expected this dark of a start for them.

That all being said, the Detroit Lions’ Week 9 opponent is not one to be taken lightly. There are still some things the Vikings are doing very well and some players that are performing at an elite level. They’re also coming off a huge divisional win.

And while I doubt there are any Lions fans counting the Vikings out, given the own internal struggles in Detroit right now, Minnesota is a team nobody should be taking lightly right now. Let me explain with our Week 9 scouting report.

Minnesota Vikings

Last season:

10-6 record (2nd in NFC North) — 1-1 in playoffs
8th in points scored, 5th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 7th (10th on offense, 4th on defense)

The Minnesota Vikings were one of the best teams in the NFL, but couldn’t put it together for a deep playoff run. An upset win in the Wild Card round got Cousins over the “can’t win big games” hump, but the following week, they were humbled by the eventual NFC champions, the San Francisco 49ers.

2020 offseason

Key free agent additions: DT Michael Pierce (opted out), DE Yannick Ngakoue (traded away)

Key losses: WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Stefon Diggs, DE Everson Griffen, DE Stephen Weatherly, CB Trae Waynes, CB Xavier Rhodes, DT Linval Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo, S Jayron Kearse

2020 NFL draft picks:

(* = currently on Vikings’ 53-man roster
** = currently on Vikings practice squad)

Round 1: WR Justin Jefferson*
Round 1: CB Jeff Gladney*
Round 2: OT Ezra Cleveland*
Round 3: CB Cameron Dantzler*
Round 4: DE D.J. Wonnum*
Round 4: DT James Lynch*
Round 4: LB Troy Dye*
Round 5: CB Harrison Hand*
Round 5: WR K.J. Osborn*
Round 6: OT Blake Brandel**
Round 6: S Josh Metellus*
Round 7: DE Kenny Willekes (IR)
Round 7: QB Nate Stanley**
Round 7: S Brian Cole II
Round 7: G Kyle Hinton**

2020 was the year the salary cap finally caught up with the Vikings, and it resulted in a mass exodus of defensive talent. The Vikings did their best to reload through the draft, and made a couple of high-risk, high-reward plays in acquiring Michael Pierce and Yannick Ngakoue. Unfortunately for Minnesota, both failed to pay off, as Pierce opted out for 2020, while Ngakoue has already been traded away.

Throw in the Stefon Diggs trades, and this was just about as disastrous of an offseason for the Vikings as possible. They took their shot at a title in 2019 and missed. Now, much like the Patriots, they are seeing the other end of their gamble.

2020 season thus far (2-5)

Week 1: Loss to Packers, 34-43
Week 2: Loss to Colts, 11-28
Week 3: Loss to Titans, 30-31
Week 4: Defeated Texans, 31-23
Week 5: Lost to Seahawks, 26-27
Week 6: Loss to Falcons, 23-40
Week 8: Defeated Packers, 28-22

Stats:

  • 13th in points scored, 29th in points allowed
  • 15th in DVOA: 16th on offense, 16th on defense, 22nd on special teams

The overall record looks bad, but it’s probably not very representative of this team’s current talent level. Yes, they were blown out by the Falcons in embarrassing fashion, but they really should have picked up a big road win in Seattle and they lost to the Titans after Tennessee kicked a game-winning field goal in the final two minutes.

Overall, the team has just been plagued by huge losses on defense—turning an elite unit into an average (or below average) unit. They’ve done an okay job stopping the run (4.2 YPC allowed, 11th), but have really struggled to defend the pass.

Offensively speaking, the biggest cause for concern is simply Kirk Cousins. After a phenomenal 2019 season, he has been terribly inconsistent this year. Here is his passer ratin by week:

  • Week 1: 118.6
  • Week 2: 15.9
  • Week 3: 96.4
  • Week 4: 127.1
  • Week 5: 92.8
  • Week 6: 90.4
  • Week 7: 138.1

He has thrown 12 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. But even with the loss of Stefon Diggs, the Vikings are still airing it out. Cousins’ yards per attempt is currently at 8.7, which is the highest of his career as a full-time starter and currently ranks second only to Deshaun Watson.

The one thing that is undeniably going well for the Vikings is their rushing attack. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who just allowed 163 rushing yards to Dalvin Cook at 5.4 yards per carry.

Put it all together, and the Vikings have an average defense and an inconsistent offense. It’s better than the 2-5 record suggests, but it’s still bad enough where you shouldn’t expect some sort of late-season surge from this team to challenge a playoff spot.

Key injuries:

IR: LB Anthony Barr, S George Iloka, DE Danielle Hunter, CB Mike Hughes
Current injuries: CB Cameron Dantzler, CB Mark Fields II, CB Kris Boyd

My goodness, the Vikings are low at cornerback. On Sunday, they lost Cameron Dantzler to a terrifying injury that resulted in him being carted off with the neck strapped down. The good news is that he has full movement of his body and flew back with the team, and there’s even an outside chance he plays this week. Mark Field punctured a lung and did not return. Kris Boyd left the fourth quarter with a leg injury and that’s on top of already putting 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes on injured reserve last week.

Biggest strength: Running game

For the season, the Vikings are averaging 144.0 rushing yards per game (sixth) and 5.0 yards per carry (sixth). They also have the third-most rushing touchdowns in the league (11), and are second in run offense DVOA. Now imagine if Dalvin Cook hadn’t missed a game with injury.

Biggest weakness: Cornerback

With all the aforementioned injuries, who’s left healthy?

  • 2020 first-round pick Jeff Gladney
  • 2018 undrafted Holton Hill
  • 2020 fifth-round pick Harrison Hand
  • Former Lion Chris Jones

That’s about it.

Even without all the injuries, this pass defense has been absolutely horrible this year:

  • 31st in passer rating alloweD: 110.5
  • 29th in yards per attempt allowed: 8.2
  • t-25th in passing TDs allowed: 17
  • t-26th in interceptions: 3

Vegas line for Sunday: Vikings by 4