Moller: It’s time to give the Vikings the respect they deserve
Nate Moller | Friday, December 2, 2022
With last week’s Thanksgiving victory over the New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings currently hold an impressive 9-2 record. They hold a staggering five-game lead over the Detroit Lions in the NFC North. Despite the Vikings’ impressive record and dominance in the NFC North, the Vikings have received very little respect as a true contender for the Super Bowl.
In fact, in ESPN’s power rankings this week, the Vikings found themselves ranked sixth behind three teams with three losses. This included the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, whom the Vikings have beaten on the road this season. Additionally, the article set a realistic prediction for the Vikings as splitting their final six games of the season. Four of the five teams ranked above them had a Super Bowl trip as their realistic prediction.
I know the Vikings have been made fun of all year for their close victories. But at the end of the day, a 9-2 record has to mean something regardless of the path to it. I will concede that the blowout losses to the Eagles and Cowboys were embarrassing, to say the least. But the Vikings’ ability to find a way to win close games should overshadow these losses.
It’s not like the Vikings haven’t faced a difficult schedule, either. In fact, of the five teams ranked ahead of the Vikings in this week’s ESPN power rankings (Kansas City, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Dallas and Miami), only the Bills and Cowboys have a stronger strength of schedule than the Vikings. The Vikings also have a stronger strength of victory than every team ahead of them except those two.
I’ve been saying this for the last couple of weeks, and I will say it again: The Vikings need to be considered as a serious contender for the Super Bowl. And Vikings fans must understand, with a record this good, anything less than a Super Bowl appearance is a disappointment. While I will admit that the Chiefs, Eagles and Cowboys are more serious contenders than the Vikings at the moment, the Vikings have shown that they have the tools to be considered one of the NFL’s best teams, as well.
To really emphasize my point that the Vikings are a Super Bowl contender, let’s look back to the Vikings’ stunning 33-30 overtime win in Buffalo a couple of weeks ago. Although the game was coined as “the game of the year” because of the stunning back-and-forth ending, the Vikings showed that they could step up in a harsh road environment and still get a victory.
Trailing 27-10 with less than two minutes in the third quarter, the Vikings could have given up. But instead, a Dalvin Cook 81-yard run put the Vikings right back in the game. After struggling to contain Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense all day, the Vikings’ defense stiffened up at the right time in the game, which allowed Minnesota to edge closer at the end of the fourth quarter.
Yes, they ultimately received some help with Josh Allen’s fumble on the goal line with under a minute left to take the lead. But that doesn’t diminish the Vikings’ stunning comeback in any way. Against all odds, the Vikings were able to battle back and ultimately win a high-stakes game against a great football team in overtime. If that isn’t a Super Bowl-worthy performance, then I don’t know what is.
That whole game, the Vikings also relied heavily on their best player, wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson alone is a valid reason for why the Vikings should be in the mix for the Super Bowl. The third-year wide receiver has proven himself time and time again by making crazy highlight-reel catches when his team needs him most. After last Thursday’s 139-yard performance against the Patriots, Jefferson sits second in receiving yards this season, trailing Tyreek Hill by only one yard. Teams that win Super Bowls have guys like Justin Jefferson.
Another reason the Vikings have been doubted all season is quarterback Kirk Cousins. Although I’ll admit that I am not the biggest Cousins fan, Cousins has been really good this season. He is currently seventh in the NFL in passing yards and is tied for ninth in passing touchdowns. He hasn’t been flashy by any means, but the strong supporting cast has allowed Cousins to find success.
I know there has been some talk about Cousins’ shortcomings on primetime. But his stats against the Patriots during a primetime win on Thanksgiving were pretty good. Cousins completed 30/37 passes for nearly 299 yards and three touchdowns, proving that he can succeed on the big stage.
I haven’t even mentioned the Vikings’ midseason acquisition from the Detroit Lions, tight end T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson’s addition to the Vikings has been huge so far, giving Cousins another reliable target and endzone threat. The Vikings were seriously lacking in the tight end department before Hockenson’s arrival. He has fulfilled every need the Vikings had at that position. That kind of move is something you see in Super Bowl contenders. And Hockenson’s addition might be the difference in the Vikings finally being able to make the Super Bowl.
I am not saying that I would pick the Vikings to make the Super Bowl. It’s more than likely that in typical Vikings fashion, they trip up in the divisional round or conference championships like every Vikings team since 1976. I am saying, however, that this Vikings team needs to receive more respect. They should at least be considered as one of the teams with the best shots at the Super Bowl. Going 9-2 to start the season doesn’t just happen by coincidence.
Contact Nate Moller at [email protected].
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.