From Week 5 onwards, the Vikings have housed the best QB statistically in the league, won four in a row and got their first W in the division. But now? The next four weeks are the true test.
Compare this Vikings team with the one that slumped against the Bears in Week 4 and it’s night and day. Scoring for fun, big plays, defensive turnarounds, it has the lot. But has it been tested?
Critics questioned that and, although on paper scalps against the Eagles and Lions are decent, the Eagles were beaten up and the Lions had just gotten to a decent skill rise in their schedule and were struggling. Kansas City (with or without Mahomes, who was designated as questionable for Sunday after practice on Friday) provides a greater test than those recently faced. The Chiefs currently sit fourth on points per game and have scored 26 touchdowns on the season, which will provide a stern test for a Vikings secondary that has allowed a combined 39 points over two weeks.
However, KC have been shown to struggle without major weapons against the Colts and the Packers, with wide receiver Tyreek Hill missing the former and Patrick Mahomes (QB) the latter, dropping games and scoring a combined 37 points in those games. Additionally, there’s the somewhat disappointing return of tight end Travis Kelce, who’s only managed two TDs on the season but still averaging an impressive 14.4 yards per play.
In the Chiefs’ favour, however, is Cousins’ 2019 record playing outdoors (as the game is played at Arrowhead): he stands at 1-2 with three TDs and two INTs to his credit. The game is finally balanced on paper, and looks to be one of the more closely contested games on Sunday. But don’t be surprised if Mahomes doesn’t play – the Chiefs only have to face one other team currently at .500 or higher in their last eight games of the season (the Patriots), so their playoff hopes are very much alive regardless of the outcome.
However, it should be noted that the Vikings currently possess the league’s leading rusher for yards and touchdowns in Dalvin Cook. And then there’s the emergence of Alexander Mattison, who has produced some explosive plays in recent weeks (averaging 4.9 yards per attempt and scoring a touchdown), coming up against a Chiefs rushing defense that’s allowed 145 yards per game, ranking 31st just ahead of a winless Bengals side. That is not a good stat line for KC fans when they see that the Vikings rank third for rushing yards this season, with The Chef cooking.
Equally for the Vikings is the fact that Xavier Rhodes (who was torched for four TDs against Marvin Jones and played a career–low 75% of snaps at Detroit) will line up with explosive WR Hill. That’s not good for a CB who’s allowed 34-of-40 completions for receivers targeted in his coverage (although only allowed an average of 9.3 yards after catch).
There are other mismatches across the board, even looking at a suspect KC O-line coming up against an eight-sack Danielle Hunter-led defensive line from the Vikings. The majority of the players they’ll be facing are backups in their position so it’s going to be a long day for whoever plays at QB (and this fan hopes it’s the less-agile Matt Moore).
In summary, it will be a shoot-out, it will be fun and the Vikings are going to grind out the W. This team needs to win three of its next four to be contenders, especially with the Cowboys next on the road and the Broncos in-between a visit to Seattle.
Prediction: Vikings 25, Chiefs 18
Bold prediction: 5 sacks recorded and Alexander Mattison rushes for at least 75 yards and a TD
Featured Picture – Credit: Vikings.com