The Minnesota Vikings are 5-1 and have emerged as a force in the NFC North thanks to coaching, talent, and continuity.
When Davante Adams left Green Bay for Las Vegas, the NFC North immediately became an enigma. After all, the Minnesota Vikings won only eight games last year, the Bears are in the middle of a rebuild, and the Lions…well, they’re still the Lions.
But the offseason mystery known as the NFC North has a clear frontrunner six weeks into the season, and it’s the 5-1 Vikings.
Rolling into their bye week, the Vikings are the products of continuity, largely returning the same roster from last year. They only spent $212 million in offseason acquisitions (eighth-fewest in the NFL), extended QB Kirk Cousins for one year at $35 million, and kept all their offensive weapons in place. It’s been more than enough.
Their biggest changes came in the form of the coaching staff and upper management, and right now it’s paying dividends. They replaced former coach Mike Zimmer with Kevin O’Connell and former GM Rick Spielman with Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
O’Connell is being praised as an early Coach of the Year candidate, and perhaps it’s due after years serving as an assistant under Chip Kelly, Jay Gruden, and Sean McVay.
Let’s take a look at what’s working best in the Twin Cities.
The Passing Game
We mentioned Kirk Cousins signing for an extra year. Some doubted his ability to lead after two disappointing seasons, but ridding Zimmer for O’Connell has given him a newfound confidence we haven’t seen since Stefon Diggs was his WR1 three years back. And you might even argue that this team has a higher ceiling than that 2019 team.
|Interceptions: 5||T-4th most|
|Pass Yards/Game: 1,502||8th|
|Sacks Taken: 11||T-15th|
|PFF Grade (Week 6): 71.5||T-11th|
There’s nothing fancy about his numbers, but it’s been enough to get the job done despite a bottom-10-ranked backfield. It also helps when you have one of the most dominant wide receivers in the league.
|Total Yards: 654||3rd|
|20+ Rec. Plays: 11||T-1st|
|Avg. Salary: $3.3 million||67th|
The consensus top-five wideout will be eligible for a huge extension this offseason. Expect him to become one of the highest-paid receivers in the league.
One of the biggest reasons the Vikings finished 8-9 last season was their inability to close out games. In fact, seven out of their nine losses came by only one possession. This year, they’re 3-0 in games decided by eight points or less.
It underscores how crucial it is to have a good coach. But ultimately, it’s about execution. Offensively, they’re averaging 8.5 points in the fourth quarter (fifth-most in the NFL). Defensively, they’re only allowing 4.5 points in the final frame. They’ve given up a lot of yards to opponents, but they’re getting the offense back on the field with 10 takeaways (fourth-most in the NFL).
It’s a little early to call them Super Bowl contenders, but the Vikings are well-coached and have plenty of talent to get the job done. We’re talking about a team with Adam Thielen as the WR2 and a proven RB1 in Dalvin Cook. Given how bad the NFC North has looked — and considering they get to play division opponents twice each — their schedule has a handful of winnable games remaining.
We’ll get a better feel for these guys when they face the Bills on the road in Week 10 and then the Cowboys at home in Week 11.
Future Betting Odds
- Win NFC North: (-290)
- Win Super Bowl: (+1600)
- Win Total: Over 11.5 (+110) | Under (-130)
- Make Playoffs: Yes (-950) | No (+670)