MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are on their bye week, and have won two straight games to get to 3-3 and potentially save their season after starting 0-2 and 1-3.
If the Vikings end up being a playoff team after 18 weeks, it’ll also keep Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman in Minnesota. The challenge that is in front of the Vikings coming out of their week off is a four-game stretch against the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers and Packers, teams that are currently a combined 19-5.
Right now, the Vikings are 3-3. So how did we get there? Here’s some grades throughout the team after six weeks.
OFFENSE – A-
Kirk Cousins is off to arguably the best start of his career, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for more than 1,700 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s found a third receiver in KJ Osborn, and led four drives with the game on the line in the first six weeks.
The offensive line has been hit and miss. They had a rough start at Cincinnati with 10 penalties, and had a rough game against the Cleveland Browns. But they played probably their best game of the season against the Carolina Panthers, allowing just four pressures on 48 Cousins’ pass attempts. Christian Darrisaw is healthy, and now the goal is to sustain that play over the final 11 games.
Dalvin Cook, despite not being 100 percent, still ran for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. If not for a fumble against the Bengals, the Vikings probably have another win. He’s missed two games with a bad ankle, and Alexander Mattison has been admirable in his absence. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are one of the top receiving duos in the NFL, with a combined 78 catches for 935 yards and eight touchdowns.
If the offense stays healthy, the sky is the limit for the final 11 games.
DEFENSE – B
When Michael Pierce is healthy, the Vikings have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen have combined for 10 sacks. James Lynch has a sack, D.J Wonnum has a sack and Armon Watts got a strip sack fumble last week.
Eric Kendricks leads the defense with 60 tackles, has a one-handed interception and two sacks. Nick Vigil filled in for Anthony Barr in the first four games, and returned an interception for a touchdown at Arizona.
The secondary has been up and down. After getting targeted frequently the first five games, Bashaud Breeland got his first interception last week. With the game on the line at Carolina, the secondary made a few mistakes as the Panthers drove 96 yards to tie the game. They’ll get tested the next three weeks, with veteran Patrick Peterson out due to a hamstring injury.
The Vikings need to tighten up the run defense and fix some things at the end of the first half, but they’re off to a good start through six games.
SPECIAL TEAMS – C
Greg Joseph is getting his first real chance at full-time kicking duties, and it’s bee up and down in six games. He missed a walk-off field goal at Arizona, made a 47-yarder to beat the Lions and missed a pair of fourth quarter field goals at Carolina.
Jordan Barry has largely not been talked about as a punter, until having a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown against the Panthers.
The Vikings will have a new returner in Kene Nwagwu, but his chances will be limited due to touchbacks. Basically, the Vikings’ special teams goes as Joseph goes. Do with that what you will.
The Vikings are 3-3 at the bye week, and probably feel like they should be 5-1. They could just as easily be 2-4, or worse. Zimmer’s mentor, Bill Parcells, has always gone by the saying "you are what your record says you are." Right now, the Vikings feel they’re better than they’re 3-3 record indicates. They have 11 games left to prove that, and position themselves for the postseason.