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The Package Deal: Coach Edition

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Tanishka Mhaskar
January 15th, 2018

The Minnesota Broncos, excuse me, the Minnesota Vikings hired three former Denver Broncos coaches on Monday evening. They go by the names of Gary Kubiak, Klint Kubiak, and Brian Pariani. 

Per social media, the Vikings announced that Gary Kubiak would serve as Assistant Head Coach/ Offensive Advisor, Klint Kubiak would serve as quarterbacks coach and Brian Pariani as Tight Ends coach. 

Football fans should be familiar of Gary Kubiak as he was the head coach of the Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos in 2015. Kubiak has won four Super Bowl rings in the span of his career and has served as head coach for around 10 years. He has also played in three Super Bowls. Kubiak’s experience should come in handy and prove to be a replacement for the late Tony Sparano—as someone that can oversee offense on game day so head coach Mike Zimmer can oversee his defense. 

It should be noted that when Kubiak was with the Baltimore Ravens as their offensive coordinator, he installed a West Coast scheme that included zone blocking and play-action passing. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and QB Kirk Cousins thrive with those respective plays.

Part of the package deal was Klint Kubiak, Gary’s son who will serve as quarterbacks coach in his second stint with the Vikings. Klint coached quarterbacks for about 6 games when he was with the Broncos. The Vikings also get Pariani who will coach tight ends, taking over for Todd Downing. Minnesota still needs to find an offensive line coach, rumored to be Brain Dennison (a part of the Kubiak deal), and a special teams coordinator. 

Viking Nations will keep you updated when the moves have been made, and as always, SKOL. 

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Is It Time for Some Coaching Changes in Minneapolis?

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar 
December 3rd, 2018

After entering this season with high expectations and being named Super Bowl favorites by tons of people, it’s safe to say that the Minnesota Vikings have tremendously disappointed. It’s confusing and tough as a fan because even with one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, the Vikes sit at a measly 6-5-1 record. Who is to blame? 

To me right now, all fingers point to HC Mike Zimmer and OC John DeFilippo, starting with the fact that the two don’t seem to be on the same page. All season long, Zimmer has pushed DeFilippo to start running the ball more. Yes, the offensive line isn’t great, but when you have a premier back like Dalvin Cook, you just need to call more perimeter runs. Last night, Dalvin Cook rushed for 84 yards on nine carries—very impressive! But why did a fully healthy Cook only see nine carries the whole game? The run game was working, but DeFilippo got too pass happy. Again. 

The game was tied at 10-10 for most of the third quarter but the moment the Patriots went up 17-10, it seemed as if DeFilippo panicked. There was no need to panic. On that drive, the Vikings had Latavius Murray in, who ran for 11 yards on four rushes. Why sit Cook for an entire drive? He can block the blitz, get chunks or yardage, and run routes. 

Why I think this is also Coach Zimmer’s fault is because he is the head coach. I understand that he calls defensive plays during the game but you can’t just focus on that. You need to make sure your offense has a good game plan that youapprove of.  You need to be on the same page as your offensive coordinator so you don’t have problems after the game. You have to manage the offense too because you are HEAD COACH not DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR. At the end of the day, this is your team, and you must make sure everyone is ready for game day. Not just the defense. If you don’t like how the offense is run, then go sit in the meetings, and help form the game plan to create the offense of your satisfaction. 

Zimmer expressed his frustration with the offensive play-calling for about the fifth time this season. When asked why the Vikings couldn’t get anything going offensively, Zimmer said “Same thing I’ve been saying all year.” He was referring to the lack of carries. 

The next question confirmed it, as Zimmer said no when asked if the Vikings ran the ball enough. 

This mirrors the frustration Zimmer showed after the 25-20 loss at Soldier Field. Zimmer asked DeFilippo to “reduce the volume of the playbook” and to “just play football.” Micromanaging the offense for a week did the team well as they rushed for 91 yards on 29 rushes, providing a good balance vs the Packers. 

Zimmer praised DeFilippo for calling a hell of a game. Zimmer did his job as a head coach: he managed the defense and the offense. Last week, it looked like Zimmer let DeFilippo loose again, and we saw what happened as Cousins was forced to throw 44 times. 

Blame should go to both DeFilippo and Zimmer, as Vikings fans had been spoiled by a solid offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur. At the end of a day, one thing that a lot of people may not realize is that having an all-star roster is not going to win you games. Time after time this season we have seen our coaches being schooled. 

Sitting at 6-5-1, the season is not even close to over. But if the Vikings want to have a shot for the ultimate goal, something must change. And that starts with the coaching staff. 
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Game Preview: Vikings at Patriots

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar, Preet Shah, an Luke Caplice
December 2nd, 2018

Your Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) go to Foxborough to face the New England Patriots (8-3). Read on to see the 3 Keys to beating the Patriots, 2 key players, and 1 conversation with a special guest.

Keys for a Vikings Victory

Contain Gronkowski

The New England Patriots have been 19-1 when TE Rob Gronkowski has caught one or more touchdowns. The Vikings did a good job of containing a washed up Jimmy Graham last week with a couple of nice defended passes by Jayron Kearse. Kearse and Harrison Smith will likely be on Gronk all game. Gronk, who claimed that he is 100% this week after being riddled with injuries for most of the season. Gronk looks to quiet people who claim that his best football is past him after his retirement talks.

Consistently pressure Brady

The Vikings defense terrorized Aaron Rodgers last week, sacking him and hitting him countless times. This week, they face a non-mobile quarterback in Tom Brady. You don’t see Brady running all over the place. He usually just stays in the pocket, so if Minnesota’s four man rush can consistently get to Brady, forcing him out of the pocket and ruining the timing of his throws would be huge given that low secondary depth. This year, when pressured, Brady has looked significantly worse then he looked under pressure in recent years. If the front four can get pressure early and often like in the Packers game, they could render Tom Brady ineffective like Aaron Rodgers last week. Pressure from the front four will allow for the rest of the defense to play coverage forcing Brady into tighter windows in quicker periods of time.

Get the run game going early

The Vikings need to run the football. They have the pieces to do it. If Minnesota wants a chance in this game they must establish the run early, even if it is short yardage. Keeping balance versus an experienced team like the Patriots is very important. Last week, we saw the screen game work very nicely, an element that had been missing from this Vikings offense. When Dalvin Cook gets into open space...well good luck defenders. Mike Zimmer said last week that the Vikings were very close to breaking big runs. “We just needed that one final block.” Let’s hope the Vikes get all their blocks this weekend. 

Players to Watch 

Josh Gordon

Xavier Rhodes listed to be a game time decision thins Minnesota’s cornerback depth. On the other side, Josh Gordon and Tom Brady are finally starting to build a rapport after the loss to the Titans where Gordon caught only four passes in 12 targets. Containing the Patriots many speedy weapons can be tough without Xavier Rhodes, the all-pro, but Gordon has been the nice deep threat that the Pats had been looking for.

Harrison Smith

Harrison Smith is one of the most versatile players on the defense. He can line up at any position from Linebacker to Safety. He can play in coverage but is equally as comfortable playing at the line of scrimmage. Packers fans saw that last week when he had made a crucial stop behind the line on a 4th and inches. Many have come out stating the greatness of Smith last week. Bill Belichick had even come out comparing him to Ed Reed. wherever Smith lines up he always poses a threat and Brady must be aware at all times.

Patriots Fan Perspective

I was able to talk to my friend Luke Caplice who is a huge Patriots fan to get some of his views on Sunday's game.

What player on the Patriots do you think will have a large impact of the game?

I think Josh Gordon will surprise the NFL this week since his first few games have been short of our expectations. Josh Gordon has a ton of potential and will be used as a major threat in tandem with Julian Edelman from the Patriots offense. However, Dorsett may substitute Edelman this week for a majority of playing time due to Edelman’s foot related injury. As far as the Patriots defense, Trey Flowers will challenge Cousins all game in addition to tight coverage from Gilmore and McCourty.

Which player on the Vikings do you think will cause the most problems for the Patriots?

Thielen and Diggs because of the constant threat they have posed to the corners on other teams. If you try to take away one of them the other one will take on their workload. I feel like Thielen is more dangerous because of his ability to play out wide and in the slot. This will make it hard for Gilmore to shadow him as he rarely plays vs the slot. This will let him draw easier matchups and be a threat through the entire game.

What Patriots running back has been most impressive this year and how do you think they will fair vs the Vikings?
Sony Michel has been the most impressive running back for the Patriots this year because of his high performance as a rookie. Michel had 1 TD and 133 yds last game against the Jets and 106 yds against the Chiefs, granted it was a high scoring game. Michel fills a void in the Patriots running game and will become more consistent as the weeks pass by. Michel will be a challenge for the Vikings to control but with the right strategy, Michel may be tamed. However, Michel’s patterns show that he should have a breakout game this week.

Score predictions
Tanishka: 33-28 Vikings
Preet: 28- 24 Patriots (I just don't see us beating the Pats in Foxborough but I will be happy to be wrong)
Luke: 24-14 Patriots
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The Rivalry: Packers vs Vikings

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
November 23rd, 2018
Your Minnesota Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers in primetime this Sunday night. Since it’s Packer’s week, we thought we would give you a refresher on our rivalry and history vs our neighbors.

Let’s kick it back to the start of this rivalry in 1961. This was the year the Minnesota Vikings had entered the league as an expansion team, in the pre-Super Bowl era (1961-1965). The Packers, led by head coach Vince Lombardi absolutely dominated the Vikings winning 9 of the 10 matchups. It should be noted the in the next two years in which the Packers won their first two Super Bowls, they were 2-2 against the Vikings.

The Vikings dominated the Packers in the 70s with a series record of 14-5-1. Going into the 70s, the Vikes had won the NFC Central for two straight years. They continued that dominance for another two until 1972 when the Packers finally took the crown. The Vikes also made the Super Bowl three times in the 70s, losing all of them in painful fashion.

Flash forward to the 90s. Everyone knows Randy Moss. The Hall of Fame wide receiver will receive his ring at halftime this Sunday. It does seem a bit fitting that Moss would receive his ring vs the Packers, as I don’t think any Vikings or Packers fans have forgotten the infamous moon game that caused Joe Buck to sneer at the “disgusting act.” Moss had his moments against the Packers, catching 73 passes for 1,320 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Things got bitter in 2008 when Packers QB Brett Favre expressed his distaste of the Packers management in a very public feud. Favre expressed his interest in playing for the Vikings, which drew the ire of many Packers fans who have not completely forgiven Favre for what had happened. Most of them seem to absolutely loathe the Vikings jersey that Favre has in his Hall of Fame locker. After Favre left the Packers for the Vikings by way of the Jets, who he played one season with, a unknown player by the name of Aaron Rodgers had to fill the gap left by the future Hall of Famer. Rodgers was a first round pick in 2005 who the Packers picked after he had slipped down the board to 25. Ironically, the Vikings had passed on him twice in this class, once at the 7th overall pick for Troy Williamson (they acquired this pick in the Randy Moss to Oakland trade), and again at pick number 18 where they had picked up Erasmus James.

After taking over as starter, Rodgers and the Packers dominated the NFC North from 2008 to 2013 with three NFC North titles and one Super Bowl. The Vikings won the division twice in this span (2008-2009), going 3-1 against the Packers. In 2010, when the Packers won the Super Bowl, they swept the Vikings. Rodgers dominance only continued until Mike Zimmer came to town.

Fresh after firing Leslie Frazier, the Vikings brought in another defensive minded head coach: Former defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Zimmer. Zimmer has proven to be a thorn in Rodgers side due to the fact that Rodgers' all time record against a Mike Zimmer led defense is 4-5-1. Zimmer's team had even retaken the NFC north crown in 2015 a year in which they had taken Aaron Rodgers and the Packers down in Lambeau Field to clinch the division. Both teams made the playoffs this season, the Vikings as the division champions and the Packers as the wild card team. The Vikings season ended a week later in the TCF Bank Stadium when former kicker Blair Walsh shanked a chip shot to the left vs the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers won their wild card game, but their season ended a week later at the hands of Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald, despite a successful last second Hail Mary thrown by the aforementioned Aaron Rodgers.

The 2017 season was one of the most spiteful seasons between these two organizations. The 4-1 Packers came to town to play the 3-2 Vikings, who were coming off of a thrilling win at Soldier Field. Nearly seven minutes into the game, Rodgers found himself lying on the turf, in pain, after a legal (depending on which teams fan you ask) Anthony Barr hit. The fans of both teams watched in anticipation, and a minute later, Rodgers got carted off with a dejected look on his face. He seemed to know that at that point that most, if not all, of his season was gone. With backup Brett Hundley the Packers never stood a chance, committing to three ugly turnovers. The Viking ended up winning 23-10. For weeks to come, the legality of the hit was debated on every sports TV show imaginable. On every social media outlet, linebacker Anthony Barr was told to kill himself and many accused that the hit was purposeful. After Aaron Rodgers appeared on the Conan O’Brien show, Anthony Barr had finally had enough of this accusations and came out a statement stating that he did not care if it was Aaron Rodgers or Mr. Rodgers but that the statement in question were slanderous and that Rodgers had the public “fooled." Rodgers only went on to play one more game that season which culminated in a loss vs the Carolina Panthers. After this game, since the Packers were already eliminated from contention, the team thought it best to rest their star and not risk him facing the vaunted Vikings defense. The next week at Lambeau, the Packers were shutout in a 16-0 loss. Meanwhile, the Vikings roller coaster season ended in Philadelphia in a blowout loss to the future Super Bowl champions.

The much anticipated week two matchup between these teams left fans of both teams yearning for more as it ended in a tie with controversial roughing the passer calls for both teams and a shanked game winning field goal opportunity by both teams. Now we wait for Sunday to watch Aaron Rodgers and company head to Minnesota for the first time since the infamous incident. Anthony Barr is waiting. SKOL
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Game Preview: Vikings at Bears

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
Novemer 17th, 2018

An important NFC North showdown this weekend as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in prime time on Sunday Night Football. This game will be on everyone’s radars as it’s likely one of these two teams will win the division.

The Vikings must play a clean, near perfect game to go into hostile Soldier Field and come out with a win. Three things must happen if they want a chance against these surprisingly legit Bears.

1) Shut Down Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack is healthy again. Mack sacked Matthew Stafford twice, and looks to keep building momentum on his defensive player of the year type campaign. The Vikes will be without their best blocking TE David Morgan, but should likely get back their best offensive lineman, Tom Compton. Expect them to double, or even triple Mack to slow him down. With the Bears defense, it’s pick your poison. Luckily for Minnesota, we have a certain quarterback by the name of Kirk Cousins who has an “elite” ability of getting the ball out extremely quickly. That doesn’t come without the ability of WRs Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen getting open incredibly quick.

2) Establish Run Game

The run game has definitely been disappointing this year but as of late it has shown signs of a rebirth. The return of Dalvin Cook proved to of the utmost importance as even though he was on a snap count he rushed for 89 yards on 10 attempts. He seemed to have a certain explosiveness about him that I don’t think I have seen since before his ACL tear last year. He looked like a completely different player than the Dalvin we had seen in the first couple of weeks or even in the Rams game when he was playing with a hamstring injury. If the Vikings want to have more time in the pocket facing one of the best defensive lines a good idea would be to utilize both Murray and Cook early to help set up play action fakes to help Kirk buy some much needed time to throw to his weapons.

3) Keep Trubisky IN the pocket

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is second in the league among quarterbacks in rushing yards with 320 and 3 TDs. Matt Nagy and the Bears frequently call run plays which are well executed and which move the chains. It is reminiscent of a high school football offensive play, but it works. The Vikings are the third best run defense in the league right now and with a possibility of getting Barr back, they might just get better. Regardless, the big men up front must close up the holes and let Trubisky try to beat us from the pocket. 

Players to Watch

Harrison Smith

No one really talks about Harrison Smith, but he’s always lurking. If you’re a quarterback, the one person to really look for on the field is Smith. He’s a game changer and head coach Mike Zimmer knows just how to utilize him. Everyone remembers how Trubisky’s first career start turned out: a game changing interception by Smith to set up a Kai Forbath field goal. On Sunday, I would expect Smith to make some kind of game changing play because his presence is ALWAYS felt in big games. After all, he is the only player to have intercepted Drew Brees this season. Smith will also be tasked with covering Bears TE Trey Burton and, as usual, helping out with the many, quick offensive weapons such as WRs Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, and Taylor Gabriel. It’s always fun to see what the “Hitman” can do.

Anthony Miller

Who is Anthony Miller? He is a rookie taken 51st overall in the draft who the Chicago Bears had liked so much, they traded away their 4th and 7th round selections to move into the late second round to pick him up. Though he is just a rookie, and like other rookies he has had his share of struggles, he has been very impressive as of late. In his last game vs the Lions, he recorded 122 yards on 5 receptions with 1 touchdown. The one knock on this explosive rookie is that he has dropped the ball far too often. As of late, the drops have decreased as he builds a rapport with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. As Miller plays most of his snaps in the slot, it is safe to say that we will see him line up against third year corner Mackensie Alexander.

Preet: Vikings 27- Bears 21
Tanishka: Vikings 26- Bears 20

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Evaluating Positions

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
November 12th, 2018
photo: Bruce Kluckhohn

The Minnesota Vikings have played nine games this season and the sample size is may finally be large enough to give each position group a grade. The Vikings offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league, and the Vikings defense is slowly becoming as, if not more, dominant than they were last year.

Quarterbacks (A-)

Kirk Cousins has proved why the Vikings brought him to Minnesota instead of keeping any of the three signal callers they had last year. (For reference, Teddy Bridgewater is a backup quarterback, Sam Bradford has been benched then cut, and Case Keenum is having a below mediocre performance in Denver). Cousins has been there even when the defense hasn’t. He made an impressive comeback in Green Bay and kept the Vikes in the Rams game. The 30 year old quarterback has been just as advertised: accurate deep ball passer, able to stand in pressure, and...low awareness. Cousins has a league leading of 8 fumbles. Although all of them aren’t his fault, some have been turning points of games. Fumbles or not, Cousins is a solid player in a previously revolving quarterback room.

Running Backs (B-)

Minnesota essentially has two starting tailbacks in Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook. They couldn’t run the ball the first four weeks, but after the Vikes got a couple offensive linemen back, Dalvin Cook healthy, and the Tay Train going, there’s been plenty of improvement. The run game may not be where Minnesota wants it, but the recent signing of Ameer Abdullah from the Lions brings a special Jerick McKinnon like dynamic to the game. The balance has helped take pressure off of Kirk Cousins and chew time off the clock when needed to. I’d expect it to keep improving from here on out.

Wide Receivers (A)

The easiest grade to give since so far both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been flat out amazing. Adam Thielen has picked up this year from where he ended last and had a total of 8 consecutive games with 100 yards receiving breaking the record for consecutive 100 yard games to start the season and tying Calvin Johnson's record for most consecutive 100 yard games. Diggs hasn't been a slouch either. This year, he often draws coverage from the opponents number one corner and yet he still has nearly 600 yards in spite of the fact that he had missed the last game with a rib injury. The only real bone to pick with this position is the lack of a true number three receiver. Former first round pick Laquon Treadwell has been on and off with a few bright spots such as his first ever NFL touchdown and some not so bright spots such as the drop that led to a HaHa Clinton-Dix interception. Treadwell also has a couple of dropped passes—most on the Vikings team. Free Agent pickup Aldrick Robinson has been good when utilized, with 7 receptions, 3 of which have been touchdowns. Another in this core includes CFL standout Brandon Zylstra, who has seen limited playing time on the offensive side of the ball with only one catch for 23 yards. Chad Beebe, a preseason standout on the team way of the practice squad, had a good debut vs the Detroit Lions with 3 receptions for 21 yards. If the Vikings want to improve in this area they need to establish a de facto number three receiver to take some of the workload off of Diggs and Thielen.

Tight Ends (C+)

Kyle Rudolph is having the best season of his career. He has 34 receptions for 349 yards and 2 TDs. While this doesn’t pop off the stats page, Rudolph has been a consistent “mattress” for Kirk Cousins to throw at—especially when in distress. The tight ends behind Rudolph haven’t had much production. David Morgan has been a key blocker for the Vikings, but he hasn’t played much as a receiving TE. Rookie Tyler Conklin hasn’t gotten playing time. In general, the tight ends haven’t impacted games as much as people thought they would in the offseason, given Cousins’ history with TEs.

Offensive Line (D-)

As usual, the Vikings offensive line has been the weakness of the team. They did essentially nothing in the offseason, but they drafted OT Brian O’Neill in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. O’Neill’s ceiling is the sky, and impressively he hasn’t given up a single sack this season. The rookie tackle was expected to be a project but was thrust into the starting lineup pretty early. Next to him is RG Mike Remmers who hasn’t played well at all. In his first season as a guard, he has given up the most pressures on the team. C Pat Elflein has not played as well as he did last year. A very small problem is his chemistry with his quarterback. The offense has had to deal with a couple of delay of game penalties lately because Elflein hasn’t been snapping the ball on no cadence snaps. He’s been pretty solid with the run ever since he returned from offseason surgery in Week 3. Next to Elflein is LG Tom Compton who has been the Vikes’ best player on the offensive line. Compton got injured vs the Jets and has missed the past two games. His determination and ability to protect his quarterback Kirk Cousins is admirable. In his place, Danny Isidora has played fairly well. He gave up two sacks to Sheldon Rankins of the New Orleans Saints, but other than that, his blocking last week opened up a few nice holes in the run game. Finally, LT Riley Reiff had a rough start this season. Poor play on Cousins’ blind side led to some strip sacks. Some were game changing and even game ending. After returning from his injury, though, Reiff played a solid game. Barring any injuries, I would expect the offensive line to start gelling together as we move through the crucial second half of the season.

Defensive Line (A- )

The defensive line has been incredible this year. No two ways about it. Even when they had lost their leader Everson Griffen, they didn’t regress to the level which most other teams would have. In fact, Stephen Weatherly who replaced Griffen played incredibly well. On the other side, Danielle Hunter has put most of the league on notice with a league leading 11.5 sacks with 3.5 of them and a fumble recovery touchdown coming vs the Lions. The two big men up front in Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson have also been amazing so far this season. Although most of their contributions are beyond the box score, they force the opposing QBs into the lap of Hunter and Griffen. Tom Johnson was a steal that the Vikings signed when Seattle cut him. In 7 games this season, Johnson has 2.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries, according to Pro Football Reference. Younger players like Jalyn Holmes and Jaleel Johnson are on the bench, helping keep the starting four fresh. When thrust into the lineup, they like the others manage to make an impact. Holmes and Johnson combined for 1.5 sacks this season. Also, everyone's preseason favorite Ifeadi Odenigbo is back in town and on the practice squad. The only reason this group doesn’t receive an A is because they weren’t able to get pressure vs the two biggest NFC powerhouse in the LA Rams and New Orleans Saints.Likewise, this defensive line rotation is what Mike Zimmer envisioned in the offseason—something similar to the 2017 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Cornerbacks (B)

The Vikings cornerback room is envious. They have three first round picks, and although Mike Hughes is on IR, he had some game changing plays the first six weeks for the season. Trae Waynes has played outstanding football after returning from his concussion, and Xavier Rhodes is slowly starting to look like the Xavier Rhodes we all know and love. Mackensie Alexander, who fought for the starting nickel job in training camp has been on and off. Some incredibly shut down plays give me hope, but other times Alexander just loses his receiver. A newfound pass rushing ability in Alexander has been key for the Vikings. Alexander had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in overtime which forced the Packers to punt. He also sacked Matthew Stafford in the Vikings franchise record setting afternoon on November 4th. Alexander has three sacks on the season. The undrafted rookie Holton Hill has been a stud for the Vikings. A mid-round talent that fell due to his off field issues has really stepped up in the absence of Xavier Rhodes and Mike Hughes. Speaking of Hughes, the rookie first rounder had a pick 6 in his first NFL game. Hughes also had a forced fumble vs the Rams. Hopefully he comes back even stronger next season. 

Safeties (B)

I think that it is safe to say that the Vikings have 5 starting caliber safeties on the roster. Harrison Smith is by far the best of the bunch and probably the best safety in the NFL right now (but since nobody other than Vikings fans know who he is he probably won’t be voted into the Pro Bowl but will make first team All-Pro). The only thing that is somewhat concerning about his play thus far is the occasional long pass he gives up in coverage. Andrew Sendejo is listed as safety number two, but so far he has been dealing with a groin injury that has sidelined him the last four weeks. In his place has been George Iloka, who was picked up in the middle of the preseason due to the Bengals cutting him. Iloka, who has worked with Mike Zimmer before has been exceptional filling in. Jayron Kearse has found new life in this team playing as a “big nickel” corner covering opposing tight ends and wide receivers. He has truly been one of the most improved players this year. Anthony Harris has seen the field sporadically so far this year, but he has been great when we see him on the turf. The only thing holding this unit back from getting an A are games like the Rams when they had gotten picked on. That was mostly a schematic problem, which Zimmer has fixed.

Linebackers (C)

The Vikings linebackers have been disappointing thus far. Minnesota payed Eric Kendricks big money in the offseason and he’s still a tackling machine, but I don’t believe his is earning his contract. A couple of miscues on running backs (especially the WHEEL ROUTE) and not being in position has given up some explosive plays that didn’t happen last year. Meanwhile, Anthony Barr hasn’t been playing like he wants a contract next year. I still don’t understand why the Vikes would draft a 3-4 LB in a 4-3 system, but it definitely isn’t paying off. Other than Barr’s injury, and his rough start due to defensive scheme issues, he has played lights out. I wish Barr would be note utilized in rushing the passer, but I do like how Zimmer is using the 4th year LB. Eric Wilson, who has stepped in for Barr has done just alright. Notably, he wasn’t able to stop Kamara or Ingram at all, but thing could have been worse. I hope to see better play from this group as the season goes forward.

Kickers (D)

This year got off to a bad start with Blair Walsh 2.0 … sorry, I mean Daniel Carlson missing 2 field goals from 30 yards out which cost the Vikings the win over the Packers. After that horrendous showing, the fifth round pick was cut and the Vikings signed the second most accurate kicker in NFL history: Dan Bailey. So far, Bailey has been a bit confusing. Against Philadelphia, he missed two chip shots but later drilled a 50+ yard field goal to clinch the win. He seems to be very hot and cold with his kicking and hopefully he can heat up and regain his form that he had on the Cowboys.

Punter (B+)

Matt Wile is a nice upgrade over Ryan Quigley. Other than the blocked punt mishap at Lambeau Field, Wile has been punting and pinning opponents down well. This has been especially impressive in the sharp winds at MetLife Stadium, and Wile will have to continue this in the Windy City next week and in Foxborough against the Patriots.

The Vikings enter the important stretch of November and December games starting with the Windy City where they will fight for the division title. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this team plays through a tough schedule for a home playoff game.
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Game Preview: Saints vs Vikings

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
Ooctober 27th, 2018

“DIGGS, SIDELINE, TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE! VIKINGS WIN IT!” The Minnesota Vikings are slated to take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night football this week. This is a high stakes game with major playoff implications come January. The last time these two teams played, the whole world knows what happened. This time, the Saints come with heavy hearts to avenge not only one, but two losses at the hands of Mike Zimmer’s Vikings.

We’ll take you through a couple of matchups and a couple of players that should really highlight what these two teams are about and who to watch for come Sunday night.

Matchups to Watch:

  1. Adam Thielen vs PJ Williams  

Adam Thielen has taken the NFL by a storm this season. What’s special about him is that no matter what he always manages to get open. He could be going against the best cornerback in the league and straight out burn him. He could be double covered, but run creative routes to get open. He’s probably the most consistent piece on the Vikings offense.

Thielen also happens to spend the majority of his time in the slot. Due to this, expect the star wide receiver to be up against Saints slot corner PJ Williams. New Orleans’ pass defense has been lacking this season, allowing an average of 294 yards per game (28th in the NFL). To top that off, Thielen probably won’t be shadowed a lot by their number one corner Marshon Lattimore--who is expected to be on the miracle man Stefon Diggs.

In a likely shootout, Thielen’s production will be key. Can the receiver get over 100 yards for the 8th straight game this year? Saints fans would disagree, but for 7 weeks, Thielen has proved fans and players wrong all around the league.

  1. Vikings Linebackers vs Alvin Kamara

The Vikings will be without starting Pro-Bowl linebacker and team captain Anthony Barr on Sunday. Barr appeared to in pain after an injury to his hamstring against the Jets late in the game. This might have been the worst week for him to miss as the Vikings take on probably the best 1-2  punch in Kamara and Ingram Love him or hate him (mostly hate him), Kamara is a premier back in the league. He can do it all, whether it be running the ball up the gut or lining up in the slot. He can, and is willing to do anything for his team.

So how the question is, how will the Vikings defend against this do it all back who in just his second year has already become the focal point of this elite offense?

It all starts with the big men up front. The Vikings are hopeful to have a fully healthy defensive line for the first time since Griffen’s incident. It would have been a huge morale boost to get back their captain and one of the longest tenured players on the team. Another potential boost could be Linval Joseph, coming back after sitting the week out vs the Jets.

All the pressure will not be on just the starters as impact players like veterans Tom Johnson and Jaleel Johnson who also come off of the bench along with defensive ends Stephen Weatherly and Tashawn Bower. If the Vikings front four can get to Kamara and even Ingram early and slow them down, it might not expose unheralded players like Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson.

3. Michael Thomas vs The Vikings Secondary

If you’re a Vikings fan, you likely hate Michael Thomas. You have to respect what he does, but you don’t have to like him. I hate saying things like this, but Thomas did burn the secondary last January. He combined for a total of 7 receptions, 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.

This year, the Vikings may or may not be without Xavier Rhodes who is listed as
questionable with an ankle injury. Their cornerback depth is already low after losing Mike Hughes for the season. Minnesota will also not have starting safety Andrew Sendejo, but in his absence George Iloka has played well.

If Rhodes plays, he will likely be shadowing Thomas, but expect a little help from the safeties. Last week, everyone saw Rhodes and Harrison Smith’s chemistry with the tipped interception. If Rhodes doesn’t play, Trae Waynes will take over and cover Michael Thomas, and rookie Holton Hill, who recorded his first interception vs the Jets will rotate in the slot.

Players to Watch:

  1. Taysom Hill

Taysom Hill? Who is that? Every week, fans of teams opposing the Saints learn the hard way. Hill is a backup quarterback but he plays virtually every phase in football. He is a special teams God, but has seen some more playing time on offense this season. He can throw, he can catch, he can tackle, he can run, and he can block.

You can tell that Sean Payton is having fun adding more pages to his playbook due to Hill’s versatility. He had his first NFL touchdown in the blowout vs the Redskins and has thrown a couple of passes on offense.

Hill is a guy the Vikings must watch out for because you never know what he’s going to do or even when he’s going to be on the field. If anything happens to punter Thomas Morstead’s ribs this time, you know who is taking over.

  1. Jayron Kearse

Let be honest with ourselves. Many of us thought that after the signing of George Iloka, Jayron Kearse was going to be on the way out. Missing the first two preseason games definitely did not help his case. But in the final two games of the preseason, he showed enough to warrant his place on the team. In the first game, many people were surprised to see him get an extended run with the first team defense.

He has played like a man possessed in many of the games where he has seen the field. He has turned himself into a “Big Nickel” who can play in the slot vs tight ends and vs bigger wide receivers. If Rhodes is ruled out by the time you're reading this, expect to see Jayron Kearse getting even more snaps due to Mackensie Alexander likely moving outside to help the short staffed DB room.

Despite how much fun we had watching the Miracle and believe me it was the best moment in Vikings history, we need to put that aside. As Kyle Rudolph said today on an interview with FS1’s First Things First “That play and that game has nothing to do with the 2018 Minnesota Vikings playing the 2018 New Orleans Saints.”

Tanishka: Vikings 38- Saints 30
Preet: Vikings 31- Saints 28

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