Drew Mahowald’s Skol Scale is a tool to measure the correct amount of optimism Minnesota Vikings fans should feel toward their favorite team. The measurement is calculated on a 1 (WELP THIS SEASON IS OVER. TIME TO TANK.) to 10 (SUPER BOWL HOMEBOY) scale.
The Minnesota Vikings have ridden quite the roller coaster in the 2018 season.
It started with massive expectations — as is usually the case when a Super Bowl contender signs a new quarterback to the richest guaranteed contract in the history of the league. Since then, a combination of injuries, off-field events, and uncharacteristic performances have dropped the Vikings short of their preseason expectations so far.
Evaluating this team really is impossible. In their six wins, the Vikings have taken care of teams they’re supposed to beat, and done so with ease. None of them have really been close games, unless you want to count the Eagles game in which Minnesota’s prevent defense practically gifted them a late onside kick opportunity.
Minnesota’s four losses, though, have left ample reason for concern. Not a ton needs to be said about the Week 3 Buffalo loss. The following week, Minnesota’s defense was absolutely nowhere to be found — it allowed arguably the most efficient quarterback performance in the history of the league to Jared Goff in a loss to the Rams.
The Vikings’ home loss to the Saints was a result of two horrible turnovers committed by the offense’s most trustworthy players. Adam Thielen’s red zone fumble resulted in a touchdown for the Saints and a second-half Kirk Cousins pass intended for Stefon Diggs was intercepted and returned for a touchdown the other way.
Minnesota’s Week 11 loss to Chicago played out similarly to the Saints game. The Vikings didn’t have a ton of trouble moving the ball, but a pick-six and a red-zone fumble resulted in a swing of anywhere from 6 to 14 points that arguably cost the Vikings the game.
So who are the Vikings? Are they a force to be reckoned with come playoff time? Or are they just a second-tier team that might make the playoffs by defeating inferior teams but ultimately won’t hang with the more-recognized contenders?
Nobody knows the answer at this point. The optimist would say the Vikings clearly outplayed the Saints and the Bears for the majority of those losses. Meanwhile, Cousins showed he can stick with the high-powered Rams in a shootout if the Vikings defense could show a lick of resistance, which appears to be the case now.
On the other hand, a pessimist may argue that crucial turnovers may be more of a trend than an anomaly. The Vikings began the Bills loss with multiple turnovers. Minnesota’s chances were doomed with a lost fumble against the Rams. And the losses to New Orleans and Chicago speak for themselves.
We may get some answers this week when the Vikings travel to New England. This matchup provides yet another opportunity for Minnesota to stamp a statement win on its schedule. Very little needs to be said about the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and their success over the past two decades.
Based on the little we know about how the Vikings perform against strong opponents, there are a few ways this game could play out:
- The Vikings stick with the Patriots for most of the game but give it away with costly mistakes or turnovers.
- One side of the ball, either the offense or the defense, turns in an excellent performance while the other hardly shows up.
- The Vikings beat the Patriots because they don’t commit the costly mistakes that have plagued them in big games so far this season.
We’ll have a better understanding of the 2018 Vikings when we can identify which of those three scenarios takes place Sunday. But for now, nobody really knows how dangerous this team actually is.
Skol Scale Rating: 7.5
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve put together one of these. Since my last Skol Scale, I’ve consumed a crapload of turkey and mashed potatoes, been eliminated from multiple fantasy football league playoff pictures, and watched two Vikings games.
Avid readers of the Skol Scale might recall that I was very confident in the Vikings’ chances to beat the Bears at Soldier Field because I didn’t believe in Mitch Trubisky. I feel pretty good about my thoughts about Trubisky, but I did not foresee the putrid performance from the offense. Mistake after mistake led to multiple turnovers and easy opportunities for Chicago to score points. That’s the stuff Trubisky thrives on — easy opportunities.
The loss in Chicago drew the “must-win” cloud hovering over U.S. Bank Stadium as the Vikings hosted the Packers in Week 12. After a slow start, Minnesota took care of business as it should against an inferior opponent. Once the Vikings gained a 10-point lead in the third quarter, there was never really a doubt about the final result. Mike Zimmer’s style of coaching works extremely well when he has a lead and it showed on Sunday night.
So, long story short, the Vikings are 1-1 since the last Skol Scale with a road divisional loss and a home divisional win.
The Skol Scale, however, will drop a whole point from the previous rating. ‘Twas 8.5 prior to the Bears game, and the latest reading reads 7.5.
I’m going to level with all of you — this drop has little to do with hard-hitting football analysis. It’s more of an emotional, gut-feeling decrease in confidence. I played a dangerous game feeling that optimistic about a divisional road game a couple of weeks ago, and I paid for it. I won’t make that mistake again.
Objectively, I know that the Vikings are a playoff team. I know that they’re better than a majority of NFL teams, despite underperforming to this point in 2018.
But, again, nobody knows just how dangerous the Vikings are.
That’s what will make these final five weeks super fun.