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Upcoming Three-Game Span Likely To Define Minnesota Vikings Season

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 26, 2021

The Vikings get back to business with a 3-3 record after their bye, and head coach Mike Zimmer has his team in a much better position than it was a year ago.

The Vikings lost five of their first six games in 2020 and were never in a position to do anything except fight for respectability. They made a decent effort after that poor start, but a butter-soft defense was the team’s undoing when there was a chance to sniff a postseason berth.

The Vikings appear to be a much more complete team in 2021, and while the first six games have been fraught with inconsistency, there are enough positive signs that there’s every reason to think Minnesota is going to earn a spot in the postseason.

Two of the team’s three losses came against in the Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals, two of the most surprising and impressive teams in the NFL. The Vikings played the Bengals on even terms on the road in the opener and were about to win the game in overtime when Dalvin Cook uncharacteristically fumbled in overtime. Instead of moving into a better position and kicking the winning field goal, the sudden change gave the Bengals life and they kicked the decisive field goal.

The Cardinals are the only undefeated team in the NFL, but if placekicker Greg Joseph had connected on a 37-yard FG attempt on the game’s final play, the Vikings would have handed the Cardinals a 36-34 home defeat. Instead, they dropped a 34-33 decision.

It’s quite plausible that the Vikings could have produced victories against two of the most impressive teams in the league. On the other hand, Minnesota couldn’t sustain success against the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, and barely beat both of those struggling teams.

The biggest issue the Vikings have faced this season is a lack of depth. They are very talented at the skill positions, and a number of other positions including defensive end with Danielle Hunter (6.0 sacks) and Everson Griffen (4.0 sacks) and cornerback with Patrick Peterson.

Hunter and Griffen should remain consistent forces for a defense that is far more competitive than it was a year ago, and the Vikings could end up with more sacks than any team in the league. The news with Peterson is not as good, as he has a hamstring injury (placed on Injured Reserve) that will keep him out the next three games.

Peterson has given the Vikings some credibility when it comes to covering talented receivers, and now they have to turn to Cameron Dantzler to step into the fray. Dantzler, to be kind, is inconsistent when it comes to coverage. While he has skills and athleticism, he is often beaten badly when the defense needs a crucial stop. This is a major concern as the Vikings prepare for the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers the next three weeks.

Peterson could be back for the Green Bay Packers in Week 11, but if the Vikings can’t come up with a victory in the next three weeks, his return may very little in the long run.

While the Vikings are facing top-notch opponents in the next three weeks, they have the offensive firepower to stay competitive. Cook is coming off his best game of the year, and he should be close to 100 percent against the Cowboys. He ran for 140 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries against the Panthers, and he will need a similar effort against Dallas.

The wide receiver combination of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen is as strong as any combination in the league, and they are getting support from No. 3 receiver K.J. Osborn, who caught the game-winning TD pass in overtime against Carolina. Tight end Tyler Conklin is not at that level, but he knows how to get open on third-down plays and he can keep drives alive.

If Kirk Cousins can continue to perform well – 166 of 239 for 1,769 yards with 13 TDs and 2 interceptions – the Vikings will have an excellent chance of emerging with a winning record in this three-game span. However, if the Vikings fall behind and Cousins feels the pressure of playing catch-up football, it could be time for this team to start planning for the future.

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