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Vikings Week 4 Skol Scale: Flashbacks

The Minnesota Vikings will try to avoid falling below .500 Thursday night against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

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.

Was anyone else’s brain unable to compute anything during the first half of the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 3 embarrassment to the Buffalo Bills, or was it just mine?

My brother and I took our seats in the nosebleediest nosebleed section of U.S. Bank Stadium (not to brag) ready to watch a bloodbath as the lowly Bills with a rookie quarterback entered the “House of Pain” to play the vaunted Minnesota Vikings in one of the strongest home-field advantages in the league.

Before I could get comfortable in my seat, the Bills had a commanding 17-0 lead on the Vikings.

Excuse me.

Buffalo obliterated the Vikings in every facet of the game. In particular, Buffalo’s pass rush shredded the Vikings offensive line for 40 pressures — 15 alone by defensive end Jerry Hughes.

Yeah, I hadn’t heard of Jerry Hughes until Sunday either.

And so much for the Vikings running game getting on track. It’s usually difficult to find a rhythm on the ground when you attempt exactly four running plays. FOUR. Granted, the Vikings fell way behind unfathomably quick in the game, but only four rush attempts from running backs? Really?

Meanwhile, the Vikings defense’s kryptonite made its presence felt — mobile quarterbacks. Josh Allen didn’t torch the Vikings with his arm. He didn’t fling the pigskin all over the yard and fit throws into tight windows. He scored a touchdown with his feet. He jumped over a 6-foot-5 linebacker for a first down. He scrambled out of the pocket to create easy throwing lanes.

It’s clear by now that mobile quarterbacks provide a wrinkle that, for whatever reason, Mike Zimmer has had difficulty scheming against. The Vikings generally destroy pocket passers — see 2017 games against Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton and, most relevant to this week, Jared Goff.

I’m not here to tell you that the Bills game was an anomaly or that it was true exposure of all of Minnesota’s weaknesses. It’s probably a little bit of both. I mean, two fumbles in the first six offensive plays of the game? Come on.

Either way, that type of performance cannot happen again. Playoff teams don’t do that.

Everson Griffen

I didn’t plan on touching the Everson Griffen situation in the Skol Scale this week, but it has become much more mainstream than I anticipated and it appears as if reports on what has actually happened over the past few days are conflicting.

There’s just a couple of points I’d like to make about this:

  1. Given the disparity in the reports shared by numerous reputable sources, it seems like the only thing we do know is that nobody truly knows specific details about the Griffen situation. I warn everyone to think deeply before instantly believing what you read about this story, even if it is from a reputable source. The last thing Griffen, his family, his friends, and his teammates and coaches need is false information spreading like wildfire.
  2. Griffen will probably be away from the team for a long time — maybe the entire season or longer — and that’s okay. I can’t imagine a player with serious mental health issues like Griffen’s can just get a quick fix and return to playing a game as violent as football in a short period of time. He has a family that will need him healthy well after his playing career is over, and that takes priority over returning to the field this season.

Flashbacks

Following this snakebitten franchise is difficult, but at least it’s entertaining, I guess? The Minnesota Vikings haven’t had a normal, run-of-the-mill, scandal-free, crazy-random-story-free season since I have existed on Planet Earth.

Just in Mike Zimmer, we can take quick flashbacks to the following wacky situations:

  • Adrian Peterson suspension saga
  • Mike Priefer suspension
  • Teddy Bridgewater’s knee nearly amputated
  • Norv Turner quits in the middle of the 2016 season
  • Zimmer has eleventy billion eye surgeries throughout the 2016 season and 2017 offseason
  • Tony Sparano’s sudden passing
  • Everson Griffen mental health scare

More flashbacks can take us down memory lane to similar blowout losses like the one against the Bills. Many fans have referenced the fact that the Vikings always lay at least one colossal egg per season. So let’s make a list of said games under Zimmer, shall we?

  • 2014 Week 2: 30-7 home loss to the Patriots
  • 2014 Week 6: 42-10 road loss to the Packers
  • 2015 Week 1: 20-3 road loss to the 49ers
  • 2015 Week 13: 38-7 home loss to the Seahawks
  • 2016 Week 15: 34-6 home loss to the Colts
  • 2017 NFC Championship game: 38-7 road loss to the Eagles

For what it’s worth, the Vikings went 1-4 immediately following the regular season games listed above where they laid a colossal egg.

Updated Skol Scale Rating: 7

The Skol Scale drops a historic 2.5 points in just one week after the loss to the Bills. With that said, the Vikings are still a playoff-caliber team. Mike Zimmer’s defense is still littered with playmakers and his double A-gap pressure scheme is still overwhelming for most opponents. Offensively, Minnesota’s offensive line is still a work in progress (and seemingly has been since 2010) but John DeFilippo still has an abundance of playmakers to work with. Plus, Kirk Cousins clearly has a really good rapport with both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.

Glaring issues exist, for sure, but let’s not act like one week takes this team out of playoff contention.

The Skol Scale rating will likely dip again next week after Thursday’s bout with the Los Angeles Rams. L.A. has won each of their first three games by double digits and combines a high-powered offense with a suffocating defense, each full of top-tier players. Right now, they are superior to the Vikings.

And the Vikings have to travel across the country, on a short week, into their house. Not ideal.

Minnesota’s secondary surely is among the best in the NFL, but it has struggled to find a solid nickel cornerback option. Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes have each had opportunities, but neither has truly seized the job. L.A.’s trio of receivers — Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp — will require an excellent performance from whoever is in the nickel cornerback role Thursday night. Head coach Sean McVay is a brilliant offensive mind and knows how to put together effective route combinations to create easy matchups.

Also, that Todd Gurley guy is pretty good. Zimmer might want to keep an eye on him too.

Offensively for the Vikings, the interior offensive line is in for its biggest test of the season. Aaron Donald and Ndomukong Suh on the same team is truly unfair. Pat Elflein’s presence back in the starting lineup should help, but that duo will need to be subdued to some degree if the Vikings offense will find a rhythm.

The key matchup Minnesota can exploit on offense is at wide receiver, where Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will go up against Sam Shields and (maybe) Marcus Peters. Shields can be beaten on the outside by either Diggs or Thielen with relative consistency and Peters’ aggressive nature can create big plays for the Vikings off double moves. If Peters is unable to go — he’s listed as questionable — then Cousins should have a field day with those matchups if he can get the ball out.

Additional Skol Scale Ratings

Usually, I just paste my favorite Skol Scale tweets in here that sum up the pulse of the Vikings fan base in a given week.

But this week, the responses were WILD. I had zeros. I had 10s. I had ratings higher than 10.

There are fans who legitimately think the season is over because of Sunday’s performance and there are others whose optimism wasn’t jaded whatsoever by that game. I mean, I figured these people existed, but I didn’t anticipate all of them replying to my request on Twitter.

Anyway, enjoy.

 

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Drew Mahowald

Drew Mahowald is the No. 1 Jim Kleinsasser fan and No. 1 Little Caesars pizza enthusiast on planet Earth. That about sums it up.

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