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Vikings and Chiefs Heading in Opposite Directions

Before the 2023 season began, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings had high hopes and Super Bowl dreams.  However, for the NFC North team the Chiefs face on Sunday, the Vikings appear headed in the wrong direction. For Kansas City, a win on Sunday keeps the line moving toward Las Vegas.

On paper, this should be a relatively easy opponent for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Minnesota Vikings have struggled in each of their previous four games. They started the season 0-3, losing to the Tampa Bay Bucs and Los Angeles Chargers at home and the Philadelphia Eagles on the road. Last Sunday they got their first win of the season, defeating the hapless Carolina Panthers on the road.

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It was hardly a resounding 21-13 win, but as the Chiefs did last week in New York, you never disparage a victory in the NFL.  The win by Minnesota accomplished one of two things, they beat a bad football team, or the win is the start of their turnaround.

The Chiefs can ill afford to let the latter happen. The Vikings have a terrific Quarterback in Kirk Cousins. For those who watched him on ‘The Quarterback’ on Netflix, he’s a hardworking, humble player, who cares deeply about his teammates, and he’s driven to bring a Super Bowl title to Minnesota.

On the other sidelines, Patrick Mahomes has delivered two Lombardi Trophies to Kansas City As the face of the NFL right now, yes, he’s still bigger than teammate Travis Kelce, who happens to be dating the most popular entertainer since Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Mahomes is the best player in all the land.

Still, the 2023 season has been a struggle. Some of it is his own doing. He’s missed open receivers, under thrown balls, and seems to be force-feeding Kelce down the field when he has other receivers open. This season opposing defenses appear in unison in their efforts to pull, tug, and knock down Kelce at the line of scrimmage.

In the final third down conversion of the Jets win, the Chiefs called a perfect screen pass to Kelce, but Jets linebacker, Quincey Williams through Kelce to the ground before the play could be executed. Thus, Mahomes ran the ball and iced the victory.  That’s something both Mahomes, Kelce, and Head Coach, Andy Reid are going to have to solve in the coming weeks.

Perhaps, this is the game where the offense gets back on track. The Vikings’ defense is no match for the Chiefs’ offense prowess.  However, penalties, turnovers, and three-and-outs give even the worst of defenses, hope they can get enough stops to help their offense.

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The Vikings arguably have one of the top three wide receivers in Justin Jefferson. The soon-to-be free agent is the key to the Vikings offensive engine. Cousins is the game manager who drives the car, but Jefferson is the grand master of his position. He is a team-first guy, never complains, and competes on every snap. He’s done this after turning down a contract extension that would have made him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. He wants to make sure the team has their 2024 quarterback on the roster before he signs on the dotted line.

Cousins is also entering the last year of his mega-guaranteed deal with the Vikings, and there have been rumors he could be traded before the NFL deadline. In fact, the New York Jets have been kicking around the idea of acquiring Cousins.

If both quarterback and wide receiver want to play together next season, defeating the Chiefs on Sunday might resurrect their season. Despite their 1-3 record, the NFC North is easily winnable provided the Vikings get on a hot streak.

Standing in their way is a Chiefs team that sits atop the AFC and the AFC West. Despite the fact, that they haven’t played well in three of those games offensively, the defense has bailed them out. That’s something this franchise hasn’t seen consistently since the Derrick Thomas and Neal Smith days.

History suggests counting on the defense, which has been pretty much brilliant since mid-season a year ago to continue their hot hand, seems a bit risky.  That’s why Mahomes and Reid need to find a groove offensively sooner rather than later.

Losing this game Sunday would force the Chiefs to scramble before their Thursday Night showdown at Arrowhead against division rival Denver. In fact, they face the Broncos twice over the next three weeks, and that’s not an ideal scenario if the Chiefs lay an egg in Minnesota. It’s reasonable to assume because of the short distance between games, the Broncos will likely win one of them.

So, while the Vikings appear to be the more desperate team on Sunday, this game probably means far more to the Chiefs than one would surmise. 

On Sunday, we’re going to learn much about the Chiefs drive to win, and how they attack the Vikings on both sides of the ball. The Vikings have a very poor offensive line and an equally bad secondary. If that’s the narrative after the game, the Chiefs will win.  If not, this could go down to the final series, something Kansas City has to avoid with the short week ahead.

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