Vikings Test Record as Luck or Skill

Are the Minnesota Vikings really off-the-chain or linking together a lucky run?

Putting aside the viral social media videos of quarterback Kirk Cousins dancing bare chested with gold chains and the cool story about the rookie head coach changing the culture, the Vikings look like they’re headed for a correction straight out of the 2008 economy.

The 7-1 Vikings begin a season-defining month of games that will determine if their start is real Sunday at the Buffalo Bills. The Vikings became the hottest NFL story outside of Philadelphia when they posted their sixth straight win on Sunday at Washington. On the plane ride home, Cousins put on quite the flex as his teammates hooted and hollered.

It earned Cousins the nicknames Kirko Chainz and Kirk Thuggins and landed him appearances with the Pat McAfee Show, where he got to do a humble brag about his “beach body,” and on the ESPN Monday Night Manningcast.

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That’s on top of the story of how coach Kevin O’Connell has transformed the attitude of the team after years under the curmudgeonly Mike Zimmer. O’Connell has done an excellent job of mixing the talents of wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook along the way. From the view of your general fan, things couldn’t be much better for the Vikings. They sit at 7-1 in first place in the NFC North and headed for the playoffs.

But …

“Don’t give me that (Bill) Parcells line,” said a defensive coordinator in response to the famous Parcells line about how you are what your records says. The defensive coordinator faced the Vikings this season and came away with a more measured take. “I’m just telling you, they aren’t that good. Playoff team? Yes, especially with (Green Bay) playing like crap and (Detroit and Chicago) rebuilding. Serious contender? I think you’re going to see over the next month.”

Over the next four games, the Vikings face Buffalo, Dallas, New England and the New York Jets. That’s four straight teams with winning records.

Vikings celebrate a road win against the Miami Dolphins. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

The Vikings have only one win over a team that is .500 or better. That was at Miami when the Vikings were drastically outgained by the Dolphins (458 yards to 234 yards) but won the turnover battle 3-0 as they faced backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Catching A Lot Of Breaks

That’s part of a series of things that have gone right for the Vikings this season:

  • Among the six wins they have against sub-.500 teams, four have been by one score and the Vikings are 4-0 in one-score games.
  • The Vikings have lost the turnover battle only once this year. That was in a lopsided loss to Philadelphia in which they were also drastically outgained (486 yards to 264 yards).
  • They have won the turnover battle in four of the other seven games and hold a plus-6 turnover margin for the season.
  • While Cousins has thrown six interceptions on the season. That is as many as he had last season and he also has only two fumbles over eight games. Cousins has averaged just over 10 fumbles a year in the previous seven years.

All of that has overcome the fact that the Vikings have been outgained for the season, giving up 5.7 yards per play on defense while gaining 5.3 yards per play on offense. Put it all together and the Vikings look much more pedestrian and less like some outlandish chain-swagging character from a music video.

“Hey, I don’t begrudge those guys anything,” the defensive coordinator said. “Frankly, they should have been better the past couple of years, but Zim wore them down. I know all the defensive guys around the league love Zim, but I know he wears people out with how tough he can be.

“They get (O’Connell) in there and it helps a lot. Guys are having fun. They’re playing loose and free again, which is what you want guys to do … but there’s more to it than that. They’re really lucky right now. Really lucky.”

Written by Jason Cole

Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.

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