I predicted a Vikings’ win against the Bears in week 13… and now I’m having those same sensations again this week.
The Bengals are 9-5 and setting on top of the AFC North standings in part by winning all 6 of their home games in Cincinnati this season. At Paul Brown Stadium the Kittens have beaten Pittsburgh, Greenbay, New England, NY Jets, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The Bengals have scored over 40 points in each of their last three home games. The Vikings on the other hand are only averaging 22 points per game in their last three road outings.
On paper this looks like an easy win for the Bengals, right? Yes, and I bet the Eagles were thinking the same thing last week too.
A sweet 16 road win capped by a strong performance by Matt Cassel would go a long way in salvaging Coach Frazier’s job. So let’s put the coaching rumors on hold for two more weeks because I think the Vikings will continue to play inspired football from here on out. As much as I would like to see some coaching changes (and a high draft pick), there is just something warm and fuzzy inside me right now rooting for a strong finish for Leslie Frazier and Matt Cassel.
The chemistry and connection between Cassel and Greg Jennings has been a real joy to watch. I can also say I’m excited to see the Vikings finally getting Cordarrelle Patterson more involved in both the running and passing game. Over the last three weeks versus the Bears, Eagles and Ravens, Cassel has connected with Jenning and Patterson 33 times for 471 yards and 4 touchdowns. I like those numbers.
I keep telling myself Matt Cassel is younger than Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Philip Rivers. Cassel is only one year older than Jay Cutler and just three years older than Joe Flacco. Now, I realize Cassel hasn’t earned franchise quarterback status, but he is a quality veteran with a lot of football left in the tank. Out of the three quarterbacks on the Vikings’ roster, Cassel would be the obvious choice to lead and mentor a rookie signal caller next season. With the 2014 draft stacked with quarterbacks and Cassel set to make 3.7 million next season, the Vikings seem to “now” be moving in the right direction. Better late than never I guess.
I don’t think the last three weeks have been a fluke. Frazier knows how to finish a season strong and the Vikings’ offense has looked balanced and efficient under Cassel’s leadership. With Adrian Peterson back in the lineup Sunday (keep your fingers crossed), I think the Vikings will have a sporting chance to control the tempo against a Bengals’ defense that has been ravaged by injuries this season.
Most fans have already pegged Frazier as being canned after the season, but could good quarterback play and a signature win in Cincinnati be enough to change your mind?