The Minnesota Vikings need to gather as an organization and purchase binders full of Powerball tickets, because their luck has turned for the better (the Powerball is at a $1B, in case you didn’t know).
One-score games have been the death of the Vikings in recent years. Last season they finished 8-9, but of their 17 games, 14 were one-score contests. In a weak NFC, and with expanded playoffs, being that close to victory in that many games they should’ve made the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, they finished the season 6-8 in those one-score games. Even Kirk Cousins’ best season as an NFL quarterback, 4,221 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, couldn’t change that result. The Vikings ended up missing the playoffs for the second-consecutive season.
Through eight weeks in 2022, the 6-1 Vikings have the second-best record in the NFC. Also, in one-score games this season, they’re 5-0. However, does recent success mean that the Vikings are an NFC contender as the NFL season will soon inch past the halfway point?
Anything can happen in a close football game. While NFL players are professionals, and are not supposed to muff punts, fumble, etc, the way that players might at lower levels, a botched play in a tough spot is always a possibility.
Plays like that are why it is so hard to trust the Vikings through seven games. Cousins is likely on his way to one of his high-interception total seasons, and their defense was ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, per DVOA, going into their Week 8 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Early in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals were only down two points when they muffed a punt and the Vikings scored a touchdown on a short field.
While down eight points, the Cardinals still had opportunities to score, but their late offense looked the same as it has all year. Kyler Murray runs from side to side and in circles trying to find a lane to launch the ball through and hopefully find an open receiver. This 36-24 win went to the Vikings.
A fine win, but evidence that the Vikings’ 6-1 record is largely a result of good fortune. Earlier this month, the Chicago Bears had crossed midfield for a first down when one of their reserve-wide receivers got the ball snatched from his arms by a Viking defender, shortly after passing the first-down marker. That turnover put the game out of reach. The Miami Dolphins had a chance to tie the score late in the fourth during their Week 6 matchup against the Vikes, but Miami receiver Jaylen Waddle fumbled the ball in Minnesota territory.
Maybe the Vikings’ luck is due in 2022. It might be time for them to finally land some flushes and full houses. They currently have a big lead in one of the NFL’s worst divisions and none of the other three teams in the NFC North appear strong enough to go on a run to knock off the Vikings.
While good fortune is raining down on Cousins and new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, they still can’t put teams down before they have a chance to come back. Their defense is worse than it was last season, and with all of the Vikings’ skill-position talent, their offense is still not in the top half of the NFL in DVOA.
No matter how much the Vikings improve in one-score games, they still have a significant problem. By not being good enough to keep mediocre teams from hanging around, they’re not ready to take down the NFL’s best.