When the Minnesota Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to the first fully guaranteed contract in the NFL, they likely thought it was a good idea. Case Keenum had just had a brilliant season for them, but Cousins was the better bet for a long-term solution at quarterback.
He didn’t follow on the promise they thought he had last season, but it can often take a year to get acclimated to a new team. So—will this season be any better?
Oddsmakers do see a reason for Vikings fans to have hope. BetOnline.ag has the NFC North as one of the most contested division this season with the Vikings, Bears, and Packers listed at +200 and the Lions at +900. However, when it comes to the NFC Championship, the outlook isn’t as good:
- Los Angeles Rams +450
- New Orleans Saints +550
- Philadelphia Eagles +650
- Chicago Bears +700
- Green Bay Packers +800
- Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers +1200
Odds of +1200 are not necessarily bad odds, but with five teams in front of them, they aren’t great ones either. The Bears and Packers are in that five even though their odds to win the division are the same as Minnesota’s.
So—why the lack of faith in Cousins and the Vikings to win the NFC Championship? There are a few reasons.
While Cousins does tend to put up numbers any coach would be happy to have from his starting quarterback, he isn’t exactly a clutch player. For his career, he is just 4-19 against teams with a winning record.
When the competition gets tough, you can’t count on him to lead the team to victory. In the second-biggest game of the year, a team needs to be able to count on its quarterback.
There is also the matter of their running game. After losing Dalvin Cook early in the season in 2017, they still finished the season ranked seventh in the run game. Last season they ranked 30th in the run game. Part of the problem was the injury-riddled offensive line and a lack of depth.
Should the offensive line remain relatively healthy this season and the Vikings establish a running game, the Minnesota offense will be in good shape. With a running game that can keep defenses honest, the passing game should open right up.
With the wide receivers and tight ends the Vikings have and a quarterback like Kirk Cousins, the sky should be the limit for the Minnesota offense. The defense will play a factor in how the season plays out, too. Their unit was one of the best in the business in 2017 but then wasn’t nearly as tough last season.
For the season to be as successful as they want it to be, the Vikings defense is going to have to regain their dominant form. The run game is going to have to work this season as well. It would be nice to think that they can rely on Cousins for a successful season, but history has proven that you can’t.
He’ll play a significant role, but it will be the run game and defense that determine how far the Vikings go, not Cousins.