The Minnesota Vikings are winning the close games they were losing last year. And, as a result, their 6-1 record is the second-best in the NFL and they enjoy the widest lead of any division leader in the NFL.
So it really is great that success has returned to the Twin Cities.
“It’s great to be 6-1,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said Sunday after the Vikings won their fifth consecutive game.
But, with respect, are the Vikings good?
I mean, are they postseason do damage good? Or are they benefitting from a division that features three troubled opponents and a schedule that has included mostly losing teams?
In other words, are the Vikings paper tigers?
Vikings Results Raise Questions But Test Is Coming
The schedule raises that question.
The Vikings have played only two teams with winning records — the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.
The Eagles soundly defeated Minnesota, 24-7 in Week 2. And the Vikings beat the Dolphins, 24-16 in Week 6. But that victory came when the Dolphins started their third-string quarterback and played the second-stringer most of the afternoon.
So, really, the Vikings being 6-1 is good. But the test of how good they are has yet to come.
(It comes when Minnesota visits the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 13 and then hosts the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 20).
So not to disparage this team’s accomplishments so far. But perspective is what this column is about. We’ll see how many people are talking up the Vikings after those two difficult games.
Not that the Vikings want to be on anyone’s lips anyway.
“I don’t need anybody to talk about us,” Cousins said. “We’re good. There’s a lot of football left. You all know, I know playing in this league, being around this league, it’s week to week. You just got to keep earning your way. The difference between 6-1 and 1-6 is pretty thin. You just got to keep finding ways to win and keep moving forward.”
Dan Campbell Better On TV Than On Job
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell is a really cool dude and that was clear during his time on HBO’s Hard Knocks this preseason.
He is a man’s man. He’s a former NFL tight end so he can bench press many pounds, which players relate to. He comes with interesting speeches and motivational tools.
I mean, the guy is easy to follow. And he’s very likeable on television.
But the problem is Dan Campbell needs to be a great football coach more than a great television attraction.
And so far he’s a better TV actor than NFL coach.
Consider this year’s 1-6 record: It’s better than last year’s 0-7 start that led to a 3-13-1 overall finish.
But the Lions are on any given week either terrible on offense or terrible on defense. And they’re always inconsistent with both.
Thus Campbell has a 4-19-1 overall coaching record.
The Lions, which have lost five consecutive games, have the NFL’s worst record.
“My thought is as frustrating as it is, I know how close we are because we are still talking about one play,” Campbell said Sunday after a loss to the Dolphins. “And the hard thing is to just keep doing your job and staying in the thick of the storm, and the easy thing is to go down below and get under the blanket, eat all the food and whatever.
“Guys who are going on the deck and just continue to do their part because they know the sun’s coming, those are the guys we’re looking for. So that’s how I choose to think of this. The only way to clean up everything is to go back to work, that’s just – that’s all I know. So, we go back to work because if we don’t, we have no chance of being in any of these games.”
First, the Lions are not an ocean vessel in the middle of the storm. And if they were, I’d say they clearly are taking on water and the waterline is rising.
The coaching isn’t good enough and particularly not with adjustments at halftime. The Lions were shut out in the second half for the third consecutive game on Sunday.
They’ve been outscored in the second half in five of their eight games.
Campbell, meanwhile, blamed the loss on not being physical enough with Dolphins receivers which he said was the game plan. Then Campbell accepted some of it.
“Yeah, it’s all of us,” he said. “It’s all of us. When this is the result, it’s on every one of us, including myself.”
The NFL’s Most Disappointing Team
The Las Vegas Raiders were impressive, almost inspiring, in the manner they responded to one crisis after another last year.
Despite a head coach resigning under a cloud of controversy, a wide receiver being released after he was arrested for causing a fiery auto accident that killed someone, another player being cut after being arrested on gun charges, and all sorts of other drama, the Raiders rallied and made the playoffs.
This offseason they added talent, including receiver Davante Adams and edge rusher Chandler Jones to compete for a championship.
But they’re 2-5 now. They’re in last place in the AFC West and coming off a 24-0 whitewash in New Orleans at the hands of a team that was rife was significant injuries and dealing with trade rumors about its best player.
No bueno, Raiders.
“Obviously, that wasn’t good enough in any way, shape or form, and that’s my responsibility,” first-year coach Josh McDaniels said. “I have to do a much better job of getting ourselves ready to go here. We’re better than that.
“I apologize to Raider Nation for that performance, and again, I own that. That’s my responsibility.”
All that is true. But it’s also on the players, such as quarterback Derek Carr who passed for a paltry 101 yards, threw 1 interception and had a QB rating of 50.3 against the Saints.
“This was embarrassing,” Carr said. “We can’t have that. That, right there, is embarrassing and it should never happen, especially with the group of guys in that locker room.”
The Raiders have talent. But do they have the hunger, the urgency and even the desperation to succeed?
“Urgency is the word,” Carr agreed. “Urgency in the meetings, in the walk through. Competitive. No one is going to give you anything in this league. There is a hope that we are learning that. We learned that today. I hope that that’s the last time.”
The bright side for the Raiders is that now they find themselves in a terrible situation. This team has a recent history of feeding on terrible situations as if its breakfast.
Now comes the chance and, indeed, the need to do that again.