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Football News

[Playoffs 2023] Minnesota Vikings: A team just lucky?

Minnesota Vikings: 13 wins – 4 losses, NFC North champions, third in the NFC

The Vikings are back! Deprived of the playoffs since 2019, the violets find the joys of cleaver matches, with their title in the NFC North and endowed with a flattering record. Too much given their performance? They will have to pass one, or even two laps to prove to everyone that they had the level of a team with 13 victories.

How did they get there?

Driven by a new dynamic instilled by Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota very quickly took off in its division. Helped both by the lack of competition in NFC North and by adverse injuries (especially against the Saints and Dolphins), the Vikings very quickly appeared to everyone as the new kings of the north.

All that remained was to take care of his balance sheet to try to grab a week’s rest and avoid the first round of the playoffs. Still in the running for the top spot in the NFC until Week 13, Minnesota saw its hopes dashed by losing to Detroit. A new defeat against the great rival even condemns them to third place, after having been second for almost the entire season.

The key player: Justin Jefferson (WR)

He is Kirk Cousins’ main target. When Minnesota needs a miracle, the Violets quarterback often turns to Jefferson. Whether against the Saints, the Giants and especially Buffalo, the former LSU was able to pull out all the stops to keep his team alive.

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Best receiver in the league this season, Justin Jefferson will discover the NFL playoffs for the first time in his career. Constantly progressing since entering the big league, Jefferson has become in 3 years the major asset of this franchise.

Why are they going to go all the way?

This team never gives up. Led by 33 points against the Colts, 17 points against Buffalo, Minnesota has always found a way to win in tight games. That’s good, it’s often the case in the playoffs. In the previous edition, 9 of the 12 matches ended with a gap of less than 7 points. This year, the Vikings have played 11 games with only one possession difference, and they’ve won every time.

Often criticized for his inability to win matches in prime time, Kirk Cousins ​​has this season proved that he is decisive in key moments. Eight times the quarterback of the violets led his team to victory thanks to a decisive last possession. He is the best in this stat. If Minnesota manages to hang its opponent to the end, this team knows how to win on points.

Why won’t they go?

Because they can be knocked out by anyone, at any time. Minnesota has lost only 4 games, against the Eagles, Cowboys, Lions and Packers. But when they lose, they don’t pretend. For the first time in history, a team with at least 13 wins in a season has a negative point difference (-3). The second worst team in this exercise, Green Bay had finished the 2019 season with a difference of +63. Here is further proof that this team has no margin.

To find a franchise that collects more points than the Vikings, you have to turn to the Cardinals and Bears. With a defense that takes more than 25 points per game on average, Minnesota will struggle to exist against what is best in the NFL.

Only Russell Wilson (55) and Justin Fields (55) have taken more sacks than Kirk Cousins ​​(46) this year. Against the Giants on December 24, the Violet quarterback was knocked down four times. Potentially pitted against the 49ers in the next round, the Vikings line is once again in danger of faltering against the league’s best defense.

Especially since losing second place in the NFC, Minnesota should then move to Santa Clara instead of receiving. Too bad for a team whose record at home (8-1) is almost perfect.

Injured players

Long spared, Minnesota ended up having, like everyone else, its share of injured players. Already not very reassuring, the offensive line will be greatly weakened by the injury of Brian O’Neill, who we will not see again this season. Injured in the knee since week 14, the substitute right tackle, Blake Brandel, should be able to return during the playoffs and bring depth to a line that needs it.

At center, Garrett Bradbury, injured in the back, has not played since week 13. His return is eagerly awaited since his replacement, Austin Schlottmann, is also injured and will not play again this season.

In defence, air cover is depopulated. Pick of the 2022 first round, safety Lewis Cine has been injured since week 4 and will not play again this year. Choice of the second round 2022, cornerback Andrew Booth Jr has been absent since week 11 and the chances of seeing him in the playoffs are low. Akeyleb Evans is also on the injured list after suffering a third concussion this season in Week 13.

Slightly reduced and rested in week 18, Za’Darius and Harrison Smith should hold their place against the Giants on Sunday.

Prognosis

This team has proven it, they are capable of anything. From the worst to the best. She can go out in the first round by taking a suitcase against New York as she can win all her matches in the snatch, like the victories in Buffalo or against Detroit.

Opposed to the Giants on Sunday, the Vikings, at home, will start as favorites and must win given their status this season. Elimination in the first round would be a disappointment for Minnesota, and would provide grist for the mill for those who believe that this team does not deserve its record.

However, the course may end on the next lap. If the logic is respected, Minnesota will go to Santa Clara to challenge the 49ers, in a game that could greatly resemble that of January 2020. Constantly under pressure, Cousins ​​could never find the solution in the defense of San Francisco. Given the state of the Vikings’ offensive line, history is likely to repeat itself.

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