Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) gets set to take the snap in the second quarter during an NFL Week 1 football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati
Minnesota Vikings At Cincinnati Bengals Sept 12
For most of the summer, the Minnesota Vikings were considered by the masses a run-of-the-mill team, usually situated in the middle of the NFL’s pecking order for power rankings. The Vikings power ranking, generally speaking, was around 16th to 18th. Of course, some outliers placed the Vikings lower, and a few went higher than the middle of the pack.
Bleacher Report was one of the entities to speak lower on the Vikings than the rest of the world, ranking Minnesota at #22 prior to Week 1. Following the Vikings loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Bleacher Report seems vindicated and dropped Minnesota even lower. BR‘s NFL staff classifies the Vikings as the league’s 25th-best team heading into Week 2. The other way to think about it: Minnesota is currently the eighth-worst franchise after one week of games. The staff of BR collectively wrote:
“Maybe [Zimmer] should start worrying. It’s not just that the Vikings fell in Week 1. It’s that they were beaten by a Cincinnati Bengals team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2015. Minnesota’s defense allowed 366 yards of offense and 149 yards on the ground to an offense that ranked 29th in the league last year. It’s a bad sign for a Vikings team heading into a brutal three-game gauntlet: at Arizona, vs. Seattle and vs. Cleveland. Given how they looked in Cincinnati, a 0-4 start is a real possibility. And at that point, Zimmer’s job security could be quite a bit shakier.“
The #22 seeding ensures the Vikings are bedfellows with teams like the Chicago Bears (#24) and Carolina Panthers (#26). The Panthers actually won their Week 1 contest, albeit to the notoriously lousy New York Jets.
The schedule, per Bleacher Report‘s commentary, is indeed brutal for the next three weeks. That’s what separates the Vikings right now from fully pivoting to an “it’s only one game” safety valve. Week 1 of a regular season never crowns a champion, but Minnesota is not in a good spot for its upcoming gauntlet of opponents. If the Atlanta Falcons, for instance, were on the docket, perhaps Mike Zimmer’s team could “easily” right the ship. Conversely, though, the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Browns are up next. By most predictions, that’s a mini-set of the playoffs. The Vikings essentially have a wildcard playoff game Sunday, escalating to the Seahawks and Browns thereafter. Comically, that would indicate Week 5 is the Super Bowl — versus the Detroit Lions. But we digress.
There are two ways to examine the Cardinals game from a Vikings standpoint. 1) Will the Vikings channel the 2015 season when Zimmer quickly erased the memory of an atrocious Week 1 showing against the San Francisco 49ers, sprinting to an 11-4 record afterward, or 2) Was the 12-penalty effort against the Bengals a clear indicator of a 7-10 or so team this season?
If the Vikings are wiped off the sandy map on Sunday in Arizona, then Option #2 is the prognosis. Should they keep it competitive — or even win — well, everybody will get real optimistic — real fast.
Minnesota is a 4-5-point underdog against those Cardinals for Week 2.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
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