Three Keys: Jaguars at Vikings

Don’t overlook the Jaguars. Look, we get it: they’re an awful team, as their 1-10 record suggests. Even still, the Minnesota Vikings need to forever banish any thought of overlooking an opponent, which includes the Jaguars. Any fan who has followed our guys in purple will know what it’s like to see the Vikings – a reasonably talented team – inexplicably lose to one of the NFL’s worst teams. With that said, let’s hop into the Three Keys.

Key #1: Dalvin Cook vs. Myles Jack

Dalvin Cook was very rightly given the NFC’s offensive player of the month award for November. Against Green Bay and Detroit, Cook was truly dominant. Over these past three weeks, though, Cook has merely been really good. Opposing teams, quite evidently, have made it a priority to slow Cook, and for good reason.

When he is on, Cook can carry our offense while allowing our defense to stay off the field (and therefore allow less points). The Jaguars will certainly do all they can to slow Cook, and Myles Jack will be a key part of their equation. Jack is currently PFF’s #2 LB. He has excelled in both run and pass defense. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Gary Kubiak adjusts his play calling to account for both Jack and the increased attention being given to Cook.

Key #2: Minnesota’s Corners vs. Jacksonville’s Receivers

Mike Glennon will be starting for the Jags. Advantage: Vikings. Nevertheless, Glennon will be throwing to some underrated talent. Jacksonville’s top four receivers range from PFF’s 63rd to 44th best receivers. In other words, all four are either average to above average. Laviska Shenault has 33 catches for 354 yards. Compared to Justin Jefferson, these numbers aren’t impressive, but it’s actually solid production for a rookie with no decent quarterback.

The Vikings’ secondary has definitely shown some signs of improvement, but they have a long way to go. It won’t matter if the defense can get pressure relatively quickly if Glennon continually has an open man. The corners need to take another step forward. Kris Boyd needs to ensure he is disciplined with his eyes and doesn’t over pursue. Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler need to marry their excellent tackling to excellent coverage.

Key #3: Kirk Cousins vs. Inevitability

Yesterday, we argued in favor of another contract extension for Kirk Cousins. He has been remarkable since the bye, largely because of increased swagger on the field. His pocket presence is much improved and he is making difficult throws with regularity. The question at the forefront of our mind rests in whether he can continue this play. Indeed, a Cousins downturn feels like an inevitability for many Vikings fans. Cousins needs to continue his exemplary play for Minnesota to have a shot at the playoffs; Cousins needs to continue his exemplary play for Minnesota’s fans to have a shot at someday having confidence in their team.

The Crystal Ball

We said it at the top, but it’s worth repeating: don’t overlook these Jaguars. True, this is a team the Vikings should beat, but when have our beloved Vikings ever been constrained by what should happen? Jacksonville has talent at receiver, and James Robinson has been having a really nice rookie year. In other words, they’ll have some success moving the ball, so the Vikings will need to be crisp.

As we approach the season’s final quarter, the TVG Predictions are sitting at an uninspiring 4-7 (a game off of Minnesota’s 5-6 record; we didn’t think they’d beat the Packers). The goal is to rise to respectability before the end of the season: a 500 record. The slogan across my family crest is the Latin for “good enough;” true to form, I aspire to “good enough.” We got it right against the Panthers, and we hope to take another step forward this week.

During the offseason, we picked the Vikings to win, and we’re rolling with that prediction here as well. The Minnesota Vikings take down the Jacksonville Jaguars in a relatively easy one.

Offseason Prediction: Vikings 28 – Jaguars 15

Updated Prediction: Vikings 31 – Jaguars 15

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