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Vikings vs Lions

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Vikings vs Lions

Photo By: Kirthmon F. Dozier
By: Preet Shah

The Minnesota Vikings (8-4) take on the Detroit Lions (3-8-1) at US Bank Stadium at noon this Sunday. With the loss to the Seahawks on Monday night, the Vikings find themselves with just a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Rams for the second wild-card spot, making this a must-win game. Here are some things the Vikings need to do to get the win.

Avoid Falling Behind Early

The Vikings can't have a repeat of the last home game where they got behind early and needed an unprecedented second-half comeback. The Vikings need to play sharp on both sides of the ball in the early stages of the game and make Blough play from behind in his second ever game as a starter. They can't let this Detroit team get into a rhythm early and let them drive down the field for 5 to 6 minutes at a time.

Pressure Blough

One of the reasons why Blough was so successful in his first-ever start was because he was kept clean through most of the game. If the Vikings can get to him early, they can force him into errors due to his inexperience. With Hunter and Griffen coming off the edge, I see the potential for sacks and the secondary to reap the rewards of some hastily made throws. 

Establish the Run early and often

With Cook being a little knicked up, I see some more opportunities for Alexander Mattison to get the rock. It doesn't matter who is in the backfield as the Vikings need to start the game with some long drives and make their presence on the ground felt. Establishing the run can allow the Vikings to open the play-action for Kirk. I believe the ground game will continue to be a staple in the Vikings offensive plans as it has been all season.

My final prediction is 31-13 Vikings with touchdowns coming from Dalvin, Rudolph, Bisi Johnson, and Mattison.

Tune in to watch the Vikings play the Lions at noon on Fox.

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State of the Vikings: Offensive Position Grades

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar

The Minnesota Vikings (8-3) sit in a prime playoff position into their bye week. After three straight spine tingling games, the Vikings (and the fans) look to get a breather this weekend with stress free football. 

After starting the season 2-2 with two abysmal losses in Green Bay and Chicago, Vikings HC Mike Zimmer said, “this team will not be judged in September. In the NFC the leading team has three wins, so we’ll just keep fighting and keep going.”

Fight they did. The Vikings proceeded to win six of their next seven and now control their own destiny the rest of the season as the six seed in the NFC and one game and a half behind Green Bay for the division title and a likely first round bye. 

I’ll be breaking down a progress report for the team to evaluate where things currently stand.

Quarterback: A-

After a rough start to the season, Kirk Cousins apologized to Adam Thielen on his podcast and has turned things around in a brilliant way. Since the disaster in Chicago, Cousins has thrown for the most yards, the most touchdowns and is first in quarterback rating. In addition, he has quickly shot down every narrative about him, leaving the haters with laryngitis.

“Cousins can’t win in primetime.”
2-0 in primetime this year.

“Cousins can’t beat teams over .500.”
He’s beat three teams over .500 in a fashionable way.

“Cousins can’t stage a comeback against a good defense.”
The Vikings QB led his team back from a shocking 20-0 deficit to the fourth best defense in the NFL in the Denver Broncos. This was all him as the dominant run game had a meager 37 yards and the offensive line gave up five sacks.

Where do we go from here? Cousins still has a lot more to prove, including in three more primetime games in the remaining five games, however, things look to be on the right track. 

Running Backs: A

When Dalvin Cook was drafted to replace Adrian Peterson, the Vikings hadn’t anticipated two straight injury plagued seasons before they would get to see their young rusher blossom into one of the best in the business. 

The wait has been worthwhile. He has tallied over 1,500 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. 

Dalvin Cook and the revamped Vikings run game has been just about unstoppable. From the 30th ranked rushing attack to the 4th best, the Vikings have transformed themselves offensively in one year.

After hiring offensive genius Gary Kubiak to be offensive advisor prior to the 2019 season, Minnesota drafted Alexander Mattison in the third round in order to have a solid backup to Dalvin Cook and fit the new outside zone scheme employed by the team.

According to Next Gen Stats, The Vikings use multiple backs in 35.7% of their offensive plays, the most in the NFL by far. Out of the eight teams that use 2+ backs a minimum of 20.0%, only the Vikings have a 1,000 yard rusher.

Enter C.J. Ham. 

Minnesota’s fullback, nicknamed “the Hammer,” has played a key role in paving paths for Cook and Mattison this entire season as well as making the most of every opportunity he has had, like scoring his first touchdown this season. 

Ham does the dirty work and he does it well. 

The RB room in Minnesota might be the best in a long time and it provides Cousins with the most support he has had in his career.

Wide Receivers: A
Remember when Adam Thielen voiced his frustrations and Stefon Diggs skipped practice, making everyone say he wanted a trade? Remember when the Vikings fined Diggs $200,000 for  missing practice? 

I think it’s safe to assume that Stefon Diggs’ statement (and $200,000) are the reason the Vikings are 8-3 right now. Last year, especially toward the end of the season, Thielen and Diggs voiced their frustrations on the lack of offensive production but nothing really happened.

This time around, I don’t think the star studded WR duo wanted to wait so long that the season was lost. Whether it was the coaching or the quarterback play or both,  necessary changes were made.  

After Thielen got injured in Detroit on his crazy 25 yard touchdown grab, Diggs has had to shoulder the load. This season, Stefon Diggs has caught 46 passes for 880 yards with an impressive 19.3 YPR, which is third best in the NFL. 

Depth behind Diggs has been shallow in the past, however, the Vikings got a nice surprise from 7th round rookie WR Olabisi Johnson who has done a nice job filling in for Thielen. Bisi has two touchdowns on the season. He has shown nice development in crisp route running and looks to be the surefire WR3 for years to come.

Interestingly, The Vikings activated Josh Doctson from IR last week, but he was limited to minimal snaps vs Denver. Doctson played almost his entire career with Kirk Cousins, so hopefully we see more out of him going forward.

The Vikings WR group certainly has more depth behind Thielen and Diggs than it has in years past, all thanks to a great draft and a nice FA pickup.

Tight Ends: B+

When Adam Thielen got injured, Kirk Cousins said that the Vikings had to”reinvent themselves.” For offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski this meant utilizing TEs more in the passing game. 

Minnesota has one of the deepest TE rooms in the league after they drafted Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. in the second round last spring and extended old-reliable Kyle Rudolph. 

Throughout the first half of the season, tight end production was low because of the run focused offense with focus on the outside with Diggs and Thielen. In the last six weeks, however, Smith and Rudolph have combined for six touchdowns and 347 yards. 

Rudolph the red zone reindeer has been the much needed red zone target and Smith just creates mismatches across the field. 

Lots were confused when the Vikings drafted Smith and then proceeded to extended Rudolph, but the reason is clear: they are complementary tight ends. Having them both on the field at the same time, in addition with the rest of the star power on this offense can put defenses into some dilemma. 

Offensive Line: B

The story surrounding the Minnesota Vikings all offseason was in regards to the offensive line. This was the most clear downfall of the team last season and all eyes were on the front office to right their wrongs.

Vikings GM Rick Spielman did a fantastic job trying to improve the starting five. He went out and drafted Garrett Bradbury with the 18th overall pick in the draft. Bradbury was said to be the best center coming out since Alex Mack and Jason Kelce. 

After a rough start and a “welcome to the NFL” moment, the rookie has started to settle in and play like the center the Vikings drafted him to be.

With the choice of Bradbury, Pat Elflein was slated to be the LG, the position he played in college and he’s been the weakest link the OL and possibly the entire offense. Elflein himself has already allowed five sacks and six penalties that have killed drives.

When Rick Spielman used the minimal cap space Minnesota had to sign Josh Kline to a deal, most people laughed off the signing thinking of the 2018 Kline who played for the Tennessee Titans and was an absolute disaster. However, the Vikings seem to have gotten the 2015 version of Josh Kline who was with the New England Patriots when they won the Super Bowl.

Kline has been a massive upgrade over Mike Remmers and his presence has paid dividends to this team. The only issue is that Kline has missed time this season due to two concussions. In his absence, Dakota Dozier has been serviceable.

The strength of this offensive line comes in the tackles. Riley Reiff had a down year last year but has bounced back and done a nice job protecting Cousins’ blind side.

Brian O’Neill, the second round pick in 2018 out of Pittsburgh has been nothing short of awesome. The young tackle, predicted to be a project, has turned some heads as he still has yet to give up a sack his entire career. 

The mobility of this OL helps the Vikings establish their zone scheme and move players to get to the second level with ease. A lot of the RB success can be attributed to this. All in all, the offensive line has been a big plus from last year. Spielman quietly made big changes without signing big names to big contracts.

Coaching: A-

When the Vikings brought in Gary Kubiak, people worried there might be a power struggle between Kubiak, Stefanski and Zimmer if things went haywire, however, it has been the complete opposite. 

After the team stated 2-2, there has been nothing but unity between the coaches. Kubiak’s outside zone scheme has helped this team revamp its run game and provide support that Kirk Cousins has never had in his career.

Somehow, the Vikings offense has molded into the strength of this team, especially with the defense playing some of its worst football under Mike Zimmer. As long as the Vikings are winning games, however, there's no problem with the new identity of your favorite team. We just keep watching.

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Vikings at Bears: 3 Key Matchups

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar
Photo: USA Today

The Minnesota Vikings (2-1) head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears (2-1) in a presumed defensive matchup. Both teams dropped a game early in the season to the Green Bay Packers (3-1) so this is a pivotal matchup because the loser will be deep in a 0-2 divisional hole.

I will be highlighting three key matchups to look out for when you watch the game tomorrow.

Dalvin Cook vs Bears Linebackers

The Vikings running back has taken the season by a storm racking up a league leading 375 rush yards. The Vikings have been primarily attacking their opponents through outside zone runs. Cook been the focal point of the Vikings offense and the Bears defensive line will try to make him a nonfactor in the game with the help of linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. 

Trevathan is the Bears leader in tackles and Smith has made his fair share of plays this season. The Bears have allowed a meager 3.4 yards per carry to opposing running backs this season. Their rushing defense ranks 5th best in the NFL and it’ll certainly get physical. 

Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy noted that the Vikings are “very persistent with it [the run]. It’s something they’re going to do regardless and they’re very good at it.”

The QB Battle

Mitch Trubisky and Kirk Cousins both have top defenses and a good array of weapons yet they never seem to play well against good defenses. For one of these teams to win this game, it’s going to come down to the QB that makes the play. 

Both QBs folded against the best defense they played this season--The Packers--by throwing a game losing interception. Sunday’s matchup is going to come down to the wire in regards to the plays made and the plays not made. Mitch Trubisky will not have his touchdown machine WR Taylor Gabriel due to a concussion so it’ll be exciting to see if guys like Javon Wims can step up. 

As for the Vikings, they resigned first round draftee Laquon Treadwell this week due to their lack of depth at WR. WIll he finally step up?

One thing for sure is, one of these QBs will determine the game. Win or lose. 

Vikings Receivers vs Bears Secondary

Sure the Vikings like to run the ball, but what happens if Dalvin Cook has an off day or if they’re behind and need to amp up the passes? It has shown in the NFL that to win big games it comes down to passing.

This would not be surprising with both teams possessing stellar run defenses. So, will this finally be the week the Vikings star studded WR duo rises from the dead? 

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have both had fairly quiet starts due to the lack of passing volume, however, they do have four touchdowns between the two. The Bears will look to keep the explosive big play ability of the WRs in check with their top two corners in Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller.

Although the TEs haven’t been as involved in the offense as most would have guessed, rookie TE Irv Smith Jr. had his best game last week against the Raiders where he led the Vikings in receiving yards with 60. He certainly provides a special type of speed and athleticism that Minnesota’s TE group didn’t possess last season so it will be important to see what mismatches OC Kevin Stefanski dials up. 

Watch out for these matchups as you catch the Vikings take on the Bears on CBS at 3:25 CST tomorrow in this very important divisional game. 

My score prediction for tomorrow is 21-15 Vikings. Be sure to comment yours below and as always, SKOL.

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The Vikings bring back some familiar faces

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The Vikings bring back some familiar faces

Image result for laquon treadwell

By:Preet Shah

The Minnesota Vikings have re-signed their former 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell and former cornerback and punt returner Marcus Sherels. These two moves correspond with Chad Beebe going to the injured reserve after he had suffered torn ligaments in his ankle during the third quarter of last Sunday's win against the Raiders, along with linebacker Devante Downs being waived. The Treadwell signing comes on the back of two of the five wide receivers in Doctson and Beebe ending up on the injured reserve. Likely, Treadwell's familiarity with the offensive playbook under the new Stefanski-Kubiak regime gave him an edge over other former receivers like Aldrick Robinson. It should be interesting to see how Treadwell is utilized differently under the new offensive regime and how much play he will get in his second stint with the team. The signing of Sherels seems to be primarily for him to take over the punt return duties as Chad Beebe will miss a significant amount of time on the IR. This could also be an underrated move at cornerback as he already has years of continuity and familiarity with the Zimmer defense and he should prove to be much-needed aid to a secondary which was wearing a bit thin with the injury of Mackensie Alexander likely keeping him sidelined for a few more weeks and Holton Hill still being suspended for 5 more weeks. Thank you for reading and as always, Skol.

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Cousins Rebounds, Defense Stays Strong. Vikings Defeat the Oakland Raiders 34-14

By: Noah Phillips
Date: September 22nd, 2019
Photo by: Cameron Daphlin

       The Minnesota Vikings (2-1) dominated the Oakland Raiders (1-2) in a 34-14 win. A game where Kirk Cousins rebounded from his horrendous performance against the Green Bay Packers. Kirk Cousins completed 15 passes out of 21 attempts for 174 yards, and a 35 yard touchdown to Adam Thielen. 

       Cousins was able to succeed on play action because of a stellar running attack from the duo Dalvin Cook ( 16 rushes, 110 yards, and 1 touchdown) and rookie Alexander Mattison ( 12 rushes,  58 yards, and 1 touchdown). Dalvin Cook now has 100+ yards in each game this season so far, only former running back, Adrian Peterson, has done that for Minnesota. Dalvin cook leads the NFL in rushing with 375 yards and 4 touchdowns. 

        The difference between Kirk Cousins' performance last week, to this week, is night and day. Kirk was able to make big plays down the field to multiple receivers, including rookie second round pick, Irv Smith JR, who had 3 receptions for 60 yards. Although the focus for the Vikings offense is the rushing attack, Kirk Cousins needs to be able to make the plays he made today, in order to make the Vikings look like a real threat in the league going forward. 

       Mike Hughes played his first game since tearing his ACL at the start of last season. His presence was surely noticed in that very thin secondary.

       The Minnesota defense came to play against the Raiders offense, racking up 4 sacks, 5 TFL, and an interception from veteran safety, Harrison Smith. Derek Carr wasn't able to stay in the pocket for nearly the whole game without getting pressured by the two defensive ends, Everson Griffen, and Danielle Hunter. Josh Jacobs, who is so far having an impressive start to his rookie season, was only able to get 44 rushing yards against the swarming Minnesota front seven. Eric Kendricks was very impressive, getting 7 total tackles, including a big fourth down stuff, which ended up stalling the Raiders' offense for the rest of the game. 

       The Three Key Plays-
  •     Kirk Cousins was able to capitalize on a successful running game to catch the Raiders off guard with a 35 yard play action touchdown pass to Adam Thielen.
  •     Harrison Smith intercepting an awful pass from Derek Carr, to give the offense amazing field position that lead to a 1 yard rushing touchdown by Adam Thielen. 
  •     The Minnesota defense stuffing the Raiders on a 4th down and 1, turning the ball over on downs, and set the vikings up for a 50 yard field goal by Dan Bailey. 

        The Minnesota Vikings seemed to be flawless in all categories during the 34-14 win. Which is exactly the motivation the Vikings needed heading into next week, where they try to defeat their division rivals, the Chicago Bears. The Vikings will be traveling into Chicago to play the Bears on September 29th, 4:25 ET. The last time the Vikings matched up against the Bears was last season, week 17, where the Vikings were defeated, 24-10, which ended the Vikings playoff hopes. 

          What to watch- 
  •     The Vikings offensive success- The Vikings will need to carry their offenses success into next week in order to drive the ball against the Bears fantastic defense, that is lead by Khalil Mack. 
  •      The Vikings Offensive line- The offensive line needs to be able to protect Kirk Cousins for Cousins to continue to have the same success he had against the Raiders.
  •     Kirk Cousins- Last season, Cousins struggled against the Bears defense. In order to defeat the Bears, we will need a good performance from Cousins.
  •      Keeping Trubisky in the pocket- The Vikings will need to keep Trubisky in the pocket, in order to have a better chance of getting the ball back. Trubisky can make plays with his legs which can be dangerous. The Vikings need to suffocate the struggling QB. 
  •      Dalvin Cook- Cook has been phenomenal this season, he will need to keep up his production against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Cook is the key player to the Vikings passing success. 
         The Vikings will enter week 4 with a 2-1 record, they will be trying to move up in the division with a divisional win against the Bears.


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2019 Roster Predictions: Offense Edition

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar
August 30th, 2019
Photo: Tanishka Mhaskar

The Minnesota Vikings have finished the preseason, thankfully without any major injuries. Now the Vikings have to narrow 90 men to 53. 

This is my first offensive 53 man roster projection, so be sure to comment below and let me know where you agree or disagree!

Quarterbacks (3):

1) Kirk Cousins
2) Sean Mannion
3) Kyle Sloter

Practice Squad: Jake Browning

This is pretty self explanatory. Head Coach Mike Zimmer prefers having three quarterbacks on the roster. Cousins signed a big money deal last offseason, Coach Zimmer likes Mannion for his experience, and Sloter is Mr. Preseason--also a good developmental piece. Browning is a QB that the Vikings picked up as a UDFA out of Washington and we've seen him play once this preseason, vs. the Saints. 

Running Backs/Full Backs (5):

1) Dalvin Cook
2) Alexander Mattison 
3) Mike Boone
4) C.J. Ham
5) Khari Blasingame

CUT: Ameer Abdullah, De'Angelo Henderson 

Cook is back and healthier than ever, so the Vikings will likely be relying on him to be the workhorse. Behind him, the Vikings third round pick out of Boise State, is Alexander Mattison. This preseason, Mike Boone has especially impressed as he currently leads all RBs in scrimmage yards. He put up 136 total yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He's been simply explosive. 

One thing to notice about this new look Vikings offense is that there have been many two back sets in the backfield. With both C.J. Ham and Khari Blasingame playing well, it's going to come down to the wire. I would not be surprised if we kept them both. 

Wide Receivers (5):

1) Adam Thielen
2) Stefon Diggs
3) Chad Beebe
4) Olabisi Johnson
5) Brandon Zylstra

PS: Jeff Badet
CUT/TRADED: Jordan Taylor, Dillon Mitchell, Alexander Hollins, Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis

Thielen and Diggs were the best duo in the league last season but the question was, "Who's after them?" Well, the Vikings might have just found the answer in Chad Beebe, son of the legendary Don Beebe. Behind Beebe, Olabisi Johnson has done well this preseason. There arguably wasn't enough hype for him during the draft. Finally, Brandon Zylstra was stellar vs Seattle last week. After a long injury recovery, Zylstra seems to be gaining back some of his explosive abilities.

Badet has speed and could be used as a deep threat if he develops more. Finally, the Vikings will likely be looking to trade Laquon Treadwell after Zimmer talked about how they were trying to showcase him--essentially as a tryout for other teams.

Tight Ends (3): 

1) Kyle Rudolph
2) Irv Smith Jr.
3) Tyler Conklin
4) David Morgan (PUP)

PS: Cole Hikutini
CUT: Brandon Dillon

The Vikings arguably have one of the deepest tight end groups in the league. Rudolph just inked in a deal to keep him in Minnesota for four more seasons. Second round pick Irv Smith Jr. should be used for mismatches and even has the occasional third wide receiver. Behind them, Tyler Conklin has played well ever since Stefanski became interim OC and he's simply got better this offseason. Finally, David Morgan has basically missed this entire offseason rehabbing injury, so it will be interesting to see when he starts practicing. As one of the most solid blocking TEs in the league, I doubt we cut him.

Offensive Tackles (4):

1) Riley Reiff
2) Brian O'Neill
3) Rashod Hill
4) Dakota Dozier 

PS: Storm Norton, Oli Udoh
CUT: Aviante Collins, Nate Wozniak

The starting bookends are set and it's a nice pair. Behind them, Rashod Hill is serviceable if anyone happens to go down. Dakota Dozier is a surprise for most as he's played well enough to earn second team LT reps. 

The man with the most Vikings name, Storm Norton and Oli Udoh, the sixth round pick out of Elon have done enough to guarantee spots on the PS, and they should be a nice project for OL Coach Rick Dennison.

Aviante Collins has frustrated most fans with his injury bug and due to the other tackles playing well in his absence, I would not be surprised to see him as a surprise cut.

Interior Linemen (5): 

1) Pat Efllein
2) Garrett Bradbury
3) Josh Kline
4) Brett Jones
5) Dru Samia

PS: Danny Isadora
CUT: Cornelius Edison, John Keenoy

The interior line is all changed up from last season, and for better. The Viking also have considerably better depth here by spending two of their draft picks on linemen. With the new Kubiak/Stefanski system, the offense as a whole should be better.

And that's the entire offense! Let me know what you think, and I'll be sure to update this after the preseason! SKOL

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