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.
We’re a quarter of the way through the 2018 season, and the Minnesota Vikings are already nearing “must-win” territory.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the slow start. The offensive line is falling short of expectations. The rushing attack has yet to exist. The defense, on all three levels, has underperformed massively since Week 1 — the team’s only win of the season.
As is the case with every professional sports team that falls well short of expectations, fans have begun to discuss the job security of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Here’s the deal — It’s extremely unlikely Zimmer is fired in 2018. We all know the resume he has put together in just four seasons with the Vikings — he took the last-ranked defense in the NFL in 2013 and transformed it into the NFL’s best in 2017. Zimmer entered the 2018 season with a 39-25 record as a head coach and has helped construct one of the most talented rosters in the NFL since his tenure began. If Blair Walsh makes the chip shot field goal against Seattle in the 2015 Wild Card round, he has a playoff win in two of four seasons at the helm. Zimmer has accomplished what few NFL head coaches have in four years.
You might say, “well, if the Vikings continue at this pace for the rest of 2018, then Zimmer should be gone.” I mean, first of all, the chances the Vikings stay this way throughout the rest of the season are slim. Go look at where the Vikings stood after four games the last three seasons and try to tell me that has any indication on where the team stands at the end of the season.
In theory, everyone on the planet is on the hot seat if you bring up hypothetical scenarios to support your claim. Bill Belichick is probably on the hot seat if the Patriots lose out and finish 3-13.
It’s one thing to criticize Zimmer for his team’s performance to begin the 2018 season, it’s another thing to start bringing up his job security when there is so, so much football left to be played.
Now on to this week’s Skol Scale.
Reasons for Optimism
- Kirk Cousins is fantastic. He’s looking off safeties. He’s fitting the pigskin into tight windows. He’s hitting throws on the sideline from the opposite hashmark. I mean, has he not been the best Vikings player this season?
- Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen together are better than any other wide receiver duo in the NFL. Period. It’s not even close. They’re consistently open. They don’t drop passes. When they are, by some miracle, covered well by a defender, they make tough contested catches at a higher rate than nearly every other receiver in the league. Superstars.
- We, as a fan base, do not deserve the hustle Danielle Hunter exudes on the field week in and week out. Did you see him chase down Todd Gurley 40-something yards down the field on a screen play against the Rams? This man is 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds and he’s busting his butt to track down arguably the best running back in football in the open field. That’s unheard of.
- Dan Bailey has not missed a field goal as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Reasons for Pessimism
- Pretty much everything else.
Week 5 Skol Scale Rating: 6
The Skol Scale falls another full point to its lowest point since early in the 2017 season. As it pertains to the 2018 season, the Vikings are in need of at least one win in the next two weeks if they plan on keeping pace with the rest of the NFC.
There are a couple of ways to look at this week’s game against the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. You see, when I saw the Vikings get throttled by the Buffalo Bills at home and realized the next two games were both on the road against the Rams and the Eagles, I kind of accepted the 1-3-1 start. Plus, the schedule immediately following Sunday’s game looks much lighter, with games against the Cardinals, Jets and Lions in the next month. From that perspective, it’s not really a “must-win” scenario.
On the other hand, if you had asked me before the season where the Vikings should be after five games this season, I would have said 3-2, 2-3 at the absolute worst. That Bills game really bites, but the game against the Eagles presents an opportunity for the Vikings to get back that win they didn’t earn against Buffalo. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears are 3-1 and on their bye week this week with a supremely easy schedule moving forward.
Whichever way you want to look at it, a win this week would be massive for the Vikings.
As far as the matchup with Philadelphia, it seems pretty simple to me. Offensively, attack that secondary. Find cornerback Jalen Mills and throw to the receiver he’s closest to, even if it’s Laquon Treadwell. Notice, I’m not advocating too hard for the running game to finally wake up. I mean, it would be nice, but I would avoid trying too hard to establish the run against the one defensive line in the NFL that might be better than the Rams.
Defensively, everything needs to improve from the Rams game, obviously. Specifically, though, how the Vikings defend Nelson Agholor may dictate this game. Whether it’s Mackensie Alexander or Mike Hughes in the slot, Agholor will probably have a favorable matchup and Doug Pederson will probably try to take advantage of that as much as he can. Additionally, the Vikings have not been fantastic defending tight ends lately Zach Ertz creates another matchup advantage there for Philadelphia.
Prediction: The defense will rebound and we’ll see flashes of the 2017 Vikings returning on Sunday. However, Philadelphia is still really, really good and that stadium and it’s very difficult to win in that stadium. Eagles 27-24.