After finding a way to defeat the Buffalo Bills in Week 10, the Minnesota Vikings are finally starting to get some respect after an 8-1 start. Coaches Kevin O’Connell and Ed Donatell have the offense and defense playing as top-15 units in the NFL. The Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson connection is thriving, even when it appears the superstar receiver is blanketed in coverage.
But none of that matters with another pivotal matchup pending on Sunday afternoon with the 6-3 Dallas Cowboys paying a visit to U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings are the hottest team in the NFL, having won seven games in a row, and have home-field advantage in what will be a packed house.
Yet, despite all that, the Vikings are viewed as -1.5 point underdogs heading into their Week 11 matchup with the Cowboys. It’s the first time since 1976 that a team starting 8-1 or better enters the game as an underdog at home.
While the Vikings are feeling good entering their matchup on Sunday, could we have seen this team’s peak?
Dallas Cowboys could prove to be Kirk Cousins’ kryptonite
There’s no question Kirk Cousins is enjoying his time in Minnesota this season. We see him leading rally after rally, leading to wild post-plane celebrations, but we know who the 34-year-old QB is at this point in his career.
He’s seven games above .500 for the first time in his NFL career and just two wins away from his career-high, but eventually, Cousins is bound to come back down to earth, right?
He can’t be Kirko Chainz forever. It’s possible we see the cracks in the foundation start to show this week against Dallas.
- Kirk Cousins stats in 2022: 64.1% comp rate, 2,356 passing yards, 14 TD, 8 INT
Also bringing a very talented roster on both sides of the ball, some would argue the Cowboys boast the best young pass rusher in football with Micah Parsons. Even with the Vikings having the top-rated tackle, according to Pro Football Focus, with Christian Darrisaw, the presence of Parsons and a Dallas D recording more sacks than any other NFL team could pose a big problem in the Twin Cities.
While Darrisaw has yet to allow a sack in 2022, it’s the pressure that could sack Captain Kirk’s ship in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
According to PFF, Cousins ranks last in the NFL in yards per attempt among starting quarterbacks when blitzed in 2022.
Here are his stats when blitzed in 2022:
|Yards per attempt||5.0 (28th)|
|Completion rate||51.6% (26th)|
|PFF passing grade||53 (24th)|
|QB rating||74.5 (25th)|
With Dallas entering the matchup blitzing on 30.2% of their plays, expect to see the Cowboys get creative, with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn scheming up a variety of blitz packages to overwhelm a much-improved Vikings offensive line. How Cousins and Co. respond to the pressure could end up being the deciding factor on Sunday.
With the Vikings playing the Cowboys and then quickly turning around to take on Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots on Thanksgiving, who ranks just behind Dallas in total sacks, yet have a higher pressure rate, how the offense performs in these next two games could help define Minnesota’s season.