After 11 of 17 games played, NFL teams’ strengths and weaknesses are becoming clear. The Vikings managed to win nine of those 11 games, most of them by just one score, which explains why folks are still questioning the team.
A few tweaks with the defensive personnel, a coaching change, and a new scheme on both sides of the ball worked wonders after the franchise missed the postseason for two consecutive years. Currently, the Vikings have a playoff chance of over 99% and can clinch the NFC North with a win against the Jets and a Lions loss in Week 13.
Sam Monson from PFF released the strengths and weaknesses of the Vikings and all other playoff teams.
A few things come to mind, especially that the Vikings never give up. Evidence of that is the six wins after they were down in the fourth quarter. Another strength is the pass rush. Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter are putting on a pass-rushing masterclass. Monson, however, chose their biggest star as the biggest strength — Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson is proving to be virtually unstoppable this season. His 1,232 receiving yards and 2.76 yards per route run each rank second to Tyreek Hill, and passes thrown his way have generated a 111.1 passer rating. His 16 contested catches also leads the league.
Jefferson has been unstoppable since the Vikings pulled the trigger in the first round of the 2020 draft. Rick Spielman selected the receiver, and he’s been the shiny object of the organization ever since. But this season, Jefferson took his game to another level. He had some minor flaws in his game, as his contested catch rate was not great in the past, or he struggled with an occasional drop.
In 2022, however, Jefferson is outstanding in both and became arguably the league’s top wideout. He ranks second in receiving yards with 1,232, just one yard behind Tyreek Hill.
There is virtually no coverage that works against him, as he can torch zone and man coverage and put up big numbers even in double coverage. His connection and blind trust in Kirk Cousins is fun to watch.
A week ago, Jefferson surpassed Randy Moss for the most receiving yards in a player’s first three career seasons. He is also on pace to usurp Moss on the all-time single-season leaderboard in receiving yards in Vikings history. Jefferson needs exactly 400 more yards to tie Moss and has potentially six games left. He could also come very close to reaching Calvin Johnson’s all-time record in receiving yards in a single season of 1,964.
Despite the strong 9-2 record, the Vikings are flawed. That has not prevented them from winning, but it’s still noticeable. Kirk Cousins is one of the most pressured quarterbacks, especially rookie guard Ed Ingram has been a problem. The defense is among the league’s worst in various metrics, and Monson chose a part of the defense as the biggest weakness — the coverage.
Minnesota’s defense this season is giving up a 105.7 passer rating, ahead of only the Cleveland Browns. Patrick Peterson is having his best season in years, but the cornerback situation outside of him has been problematic. Peterson is the only Minnesota corner allowing a passer rating under 108.9 into his coverage.
Despite investing in the position, the Vikings can’t get rid of concerning cornerback play. Second-rounder Andrew Booth is on injured reserve and was a liability whenever he stepped onto the field.
Cameron Dantzler was a below-average cornerback in coverage but was the best option. Unfortunately, Dantzler has been hurt with an ankle injury and missed the last three games. He could come off injured reserve after the game against the Jets.
His replacement, Akayleb Evans, did a great job for a fourth-round cornerback. It was unlikely he would play snaps as a rookie when the Vikings drafted him, but the team needed him, and he delivered. However, he may have been great considering the expectations, but he was not quite a lockdown cornerback and then went on to miss a couple of games with a concussion.
Duke Shelley came in for him. He was a practice squad guy and had two huge pass breakups in the endzone. Other than that, Shelley struggled a lot.
At least veteran Patrick Peterson is having a great season. The eight-time Pro Bowler turned back the clock and looks like prime Peterson. He lost a few steps, but his football mind is outstanding, and he often knows the plays before they happen.
The Vikings probably enter the fourth consecutive offseason with a need at cornerback.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt