Kirk Cousins, Vikings Lead NFC North in Weapons Race and It’s Not Close

Photo: Minnesota Vikings

Remember when the Minnesota Vikings were known as a defensive juggernaut? Mike Zimmer landed in the Twin Cities seven years ago and quickly turned its defensive reputation into, not just something for opposing teams to respect, but something they fear.

And while those teams were preparing weekly for the Vikings defense, GM Rick Spielman quietly built one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. The build up on that side of the ball is proving to be very important too. After losing many key pieces that helped build up Zim’s reputation here after the 2019 season, Minnesota’s 2020 defense was young, injury riddled and… terrible.

Zim’s 2021 defense got another makeover, replacing nearly every position starter from last year, and looks much better on paper. Still, this is a Vikings team team that will only go as far as its offense takes it.

Offensive Fire Power

Success on that side of the ball will depend on a VERY young and unproven offensive line and a quarterback who’s constantly trying to show he’s worth the $66 million he’ll be paid over the next two seasons. The weapons surrounding Cousins and his OL, however, is the most rock solid in the NFC North and, according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, top-5 in the entire league.

#5 – Minnesota Vikings

2020 rank: 17 | 2019 rank: 5

It’s hard to think of a trade that looks more like a win-win for both sides after one season than the swap that sent Stefon Diggs to the Bills and allowed the Vikings to draft Justin Jefferson. All Jefferson did was produce one of the most impressive seasons by a rookie receiver in league history, as he led all receivers in yards (1,330) and yards per target (11.0) after entering the starting lineup in Week 3. Adam Thielen‘s volume suffered, with the veteran losing a little over two targets per game from his 2018 peak, but he still scored a ho-hum 14 touchdowns.

At this point, everybody’s on the same page with Dalvin Cook: When the Vikings’ star running back is healthy, he’s right alongside Derrick Henry as the most fearsome back in all of football. Counting on him to be healthy can be dangerous. He missed two games in 2019 and had to leave three more with a shoulder injury. Last season, he sat out in Week 17 and missed a game and a half with a groin issue. Cook does more in 13 or 14 games than most backs do in a full season, but if we ever get to see the 2017 second-rounder piece together a full 17-game campaign, he’d be a threat to hit 2,000 yards.

Bill Barnwell – ESPN

Barnwell’s rankings judge the offensive skill positions of all 32 teams, not including their quarterbacks. Essentially, he’s ranking the best wide receiver (most weight), running back (less weight) and tight end (least weight) combinations in the NFL. With Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr, it’s no surprise the Minnesota Vikings rank #5.

Rest of the NFC North

What’s interesting, is where the rest of the division ranks on the list. AJ Dillon and Davante Adams push the Packers up to #11 but neither the Bears nor the Lions rank in the top 25. Remember, the NFL is made up of 32 teams. Clearly, the Vikings have the most offensive fire power of any NFC North team and it’s not really close.

RkTeamWR1WR2RB1RB2TE1
#5VikingsJ. JeffersonA. ThielenD. CookA. MattisonI. Smith
#11PackersD. AdamsA. LazardA. JonesAJ DillonR. Tonyan
#26BearsA. RobinsonD. MooneyD. MontgomeryT. CohenC. Kmet
#31LionsT. WilliamsB. PerrimanD. SwiftJ. WilliamsTJ Hockenson

Can Kirk Cousins and the offensive line take advantage? Will Mike Zimmer’s defense bounce back to a respectable level? Those are questions nobody can answer yet.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan