Well, here we are. The Conference Championship games arrive this Sunday, and no NFC North team will feature this year.
The Minnesota Vikings failed miserably this season in particular, having being touted as one of the most talented teams in the league at the inception of the season. With their franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins signing a three-year, $84 million guaranteed contract, the future couldn’t have looked brighter. Yet, by the conclusion of the regular season, the Vikings finished 8-7-1. In what has transpired to be a long old season for the Vikes, I aim to detail both the positives and the negatives of this season to forget below.
The Overarching Positives
I’ll be honest, there aren’t too many positives this year, as aforementioned. That said, there were certain players who dominated all season, and were constant professionals.
The first being Danielle Hunter. After starting all 16 games, Hunter converted a fumble into a 32-yard touchdown. He also notched 14.5 sacks, 72 combined tackles, 21 TFL and 19 QB hits. For his efforts he was subsequently nominated to the Pro Bowl. In addition, Hunter was named an All-Pro for the 2018 season. This season was by far Hunter’s best as he was overbearing at the line of scrimmage every play.
Adam Thielen produced another career-year, within which he was named to another Pro Bowl. He compiled 1373 yards and 9 touchdowns on 113 receptions, whilst averaging 12.2 yards per catch. Furthermore, Thielen also averaged career-highs in yards per game (85.8) and catch percentage (73.9%) this season. His meteoric rise through the ranks of the NFL has been exceptional to witness, and no doubt cements his place as a fan favourite among the Minneapolis faithful.
A lot of people will be annoyed by this choice, but statistically Kirk Cousins deserves a shout-out at least. I’ll admit that for the majority of the season, and his career for what it’s worth, he failed in the big moments and more importantly the big games. That said, Cousins surpassed the 4000-yard passing mark, with 4298. He also contributed 30 touchdowns, whilst boasting a completion percentage of 70.1%. Moreover, with the addition of Gary Kubiak in an offensive advisory position, the Vikings are headed in the right direction. As previously alluded to however, it must be noted that Cousins largely failed this season when it mattered most, so you can add or remove him from this list.
Most Impressive Performance
The Vikings’ best game this year for me came against the Miami Dolphins in week 15. The game finished 41-17 to the Vikings, and for me represented the most complete performance all year.
In the game, Kirk Cousins completed 14/21 passes for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns. Besides that, Kevin Stefanski finally got the run game ignited in his first game as OC as Dalvin Cook rushed for 136 yards and converted 2 touchdowns on 19 carries.
As well as the offence, the defensive unit was just as immaculate. There were 9 sacks in total, with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendericks adding 2 apiece. They also limited Ryan Tannehill to 0 touchdown passes, and ultimately played their best game this season.
The Overbearing Negatives
Oh boy…here we go.
First of all, the Vikings lost in every game they played against .500+ win teams. This was ultimately their largest downfall, as the inability to defeat the better teams discredited their winning record against the lesser ones.
Additionally, in a week 17 “win and your in the postseason” scenario, the Vikings crumbled under pressure in their own backyard. To their rivals, the Chicago Bears, no less. The loss epitomised everything this season represented, that being, that they were great at times, but not good enough when it truly mattered.
Missing out on the playoffs remains the biggest failure of any franchise. This sentiment bares no greater meaning than for the Vikings, who in my opinion are the most talented team who are not in the dance this year.
Looking To The Future
As we edge ever closer to the 2019 season, the Vikings are beginning to build for the charge once more. The coaching changes which have been implemented recently should provide some assistance on offence for Stefanski, whilst Klint Kubiak may just be the right fit to help shape and mould Kirk Cousins’ game heading into the new footballing year.
Image Credits – Minnesota Vikings Twitter