Oct 3, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) deflects a pass intended for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the fourth quarter at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Vikings are not in an enviable spot for three weeks into 2021, at 1-3 and third in the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears currently lead the Vikings by win and loss.
But that national conviction of the team did not fundamentally change. Last week, after finally beating the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota crawled to 16e in the NFL, according to NFL.com power rankings – dab in the midst of things. At that point, the placement was fair. The Vikings were a 1-2 team, fresh off the steam of the mighty Russell Wilson.
In Week 4, the Cleveland Browns strangled the Vikings offense, holding Mike Zimmer’s team to a paltry seven runs and a total shutout after first possession. For Dan Hanzus from NFL.comHowever, that didn’t matter. Minnesota checked in at 17e in the pecking order of the NFL, only one seed tumbled as a result of the Browns debacle. Hansus thought:
“It was so easy for Kirk Cousins and Co. in the first three weeks. On Sunday, that trend seemed destined to continue as the Vikings marched straight off the field for a touchdown in their opening drive against the Browns. Then the script flipped. Minnesota had 11 possessions from then on and never scored again in a disappointing 14-7 loss at US Bank Stadium. Cousins was knocked out of rhythm by a constant pass rush from Cleveland, and Dalvin Cook spent more time on the sidelines with that ominous ankle problem. The Vikings still feel like they have the DNA of a playoff team, but a 1-3 start puts them in a tough position. They won’t find the post season if they can’t find consistency.”
So, here’s what happened. Vikings fans — those obsessed with the team’s minute-by-minute operations — took the loss to Cleveland as a deadly indictment. The outsiders, those who do not track absolutely everything, looked at the box score and said, “Oh, they lost to the Browns, who are a playoff team. Defensive battle. Got it.”
Somewhere in the middle is probably the reasonable mentality that the Vikings must have in the future. Once and for all, Zimmer must string together competent performances in which both the violation and defense on the same day. Minnesota’s defense against Cleveland wasn’t outstanding — especially since Baker Mayfield was terrible on his own — but it improved from Weeks 1 through 3. But on the day the defense forced several kicks, the offense laid eggs. Mini twilight zone stuff for fans.
Existing in the middle of the pack in front NFL.com’s power rankings are the Denver Broncos (#16) and Tennessee Titans (#18). If you’re trying to determine: how good are these vikings, near the Broncos and Titans is a fair estimate, at least by national judgement.
On top of the world now? The Arizona Cardinals (#1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#2) and Buffalo Bills (#3). The league’s basement houses the Jacksonville Jaguars (#30), Detroit Lions (#31) and Houston Texans (#32).
To escape hole 1-3, the Vikings will take on those lions in week 5 in US Bank Stadium. Minnesota is preferred with about eight points per sportsbook.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawho and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).