(WCCO)- The perception of the 2020 Minnesota Vikings season has been completely turned on its head in the last month and change. After starting with a 1-5 record that appeared to have them headed towards a top pick in next April’s draft, they’ve put together four wins in their last five games with the lone loss coming by a field goal against the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s been a strange stretch with the loss to the 3-8 Cowboys, but wins over the division rival Packers, Lions and Bears along with last week’s last minute win over the Panthers. NFL on CBS contributor and That Other Pregame Show analyst on CBS Sports Network Amy Trask says that the improvement over this stretch has been impressive.
“It’s been the turnaround. Over this last stretch we’ve seen improvement. There were some rocky games prior to this stretch and the season could have taken a turn, but they’ve righted the ship to use that analogy,” said Trask in an interview with Ryan Mayer. “Look, I have questions about Kirk Cousins, I think a lot of people have questions but, at the end of the day, a win is a win is a win and they have been winning these last number of games.”
The improvement has come from several places, but on offense, an increased usage of Dalvin Cook has been a spark. The fourth-year back has averaged 28 touches over the last five games since returning from injury in Week 8. Combined with the continued rise of rookie receiver Justin Jefferson, the offense has really gotten going scoring 28 or more points in each of the last five games save one, a 19-13 win over Chicago.
With the 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars set to come to town, the team got an extra boost of good news with receiver Adam Thielen being activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Trask points out that the threat of Thielen on the outside will only further open the field for both Jefferson and Cook to work.
“This is 11 on 11, football is a game of matchups and if you have someone on the field like Adam, he’s going to divert the attention of some of the other team’s best defenders. He’s one of those receivers that when a defense lines up, it’s ‘Where is he? What’s he doing? How do we cover him?’ That should leave room for others to make some progress,” said Trask. “It’s a game of matchups and when you have someone who’s a game changer on the field whether on offense or defense, that diverts attention and frees up other people.”
Cook tweaked his ankle in last week’s game, but this week said he was “feeling good” according to Ben Goessling of the Star-Tribune. He was limited in practice Wednesday but appears on track to play Sunday.
On paper, the Jaguars are not much to write home about this season. They have given up the third-most points per game this season (29.5) while scoring the second-fewest (18.5). And, they’re on their third quarterback of the year in former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Chicago Bear Mike Glennon. Still, Trask warns of being over-confident.
“I would not however take this game for granted. I don’t think any game can ever be taken for granted no matter the season,” said Trask. “But, this season in particular, we’ve seen a lot of head-scratching games and by that I mean, outcomes we haven’t expected so, they’d best not look past this week’s opponent.”
The Vikings don’t necessarily need this win to be in playoff position, but considering they still have games against both the Buccaneers and Saints left along with division dates against the Bears and Lions, taking a win in a game you’re supposed to this Sunday is pretty crucial.
For Trask, she’s going to be watching the Minnesota defense which has struggled this year. The Jaguars don’t seem to present too much of a threat on the surface with Glennon under center but, three of their last four games have been one score losses including last week against the Browns.
“My eye is going to be on the Minnesota defense. We know what Minnesota is capable offensively,” said Trask. “I’m going to have my eye on Minnesota’s defense because Jacksonville as we know is troubled at quarterback, they’re working through that situation. One might look at Jacksonville and say, ‘Really? What sort of threat do they pose?’ I want to see how Minnesota’s defense reacts to that. Minnesota is going to have to win games going forward, it’s going to have to be at its best with respect to some opponents. It had best not overlook this one.”
The Vikings host the Jaguars on Sunday, December 6 with kickoff slated for 12:00 p.m. CST on CBS.