Vikings Winners and Losers — Week 1

The Vikings Top Offensive Performers vs. Packers, per PFF
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The biggest winners are the Minnesota Vikings in general because they have beaten their division rival. Green Bay came to Minnesota unprepared, and the game was practically over at halftime.

Many Vikings stood out and can be regarded as winners and just a few as losers. Let’s start with the winners in no particular order.

Winners

Justin Jefferson

The wide receiver started into his third season after a big proclamation in the offseason. He wants to become the best receiver in football. It took him just one game to lead the league in receiving yards after a career-high 184 yards in Week 1. The Packers had no answer for him. He lined up all over the field, on both sides, in the slot, as a tight end, and in the backfield. Kevin O’Connell had a brilliant game plan and forced the Packers into matching up Jefferson against pass rusher Preston Smith and rookie linebacker Quay Walker.

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

But even when he went up against cornerbacks, and the Packers have some excellent ones, he dominated the game. Kirk Cousins had a perfect passer rating when he targeted Jefferson. It was his fourth game with two receiving touchdowns.

He wanted to become the best receiver in football, and he may already reach that goal. He has the talent and the opportunity as the focal point in a pass-happy offense. In addition to that, his offensive coordinator can scheme him open. His next matchup will be against Eagles Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay.

Harrison Smith

The veteran safety is still an elite player. In countless offseason rankings, Smith was snubbed. He was great in the 2021 season as well, but most people likely assumed a dropoff in his age 33 seasons. However, he’s still phenomenal. On a crucial goal-line stand, the safety made a big play on second and third down. He stopped powerful running back A.J. Dillion just before the goal line.

In addition to that, he also secured his 30th career interception on a deep pass from MVP Aaron Rodgers.

No dropoff in sight, but Smith is still one of the best in the business. While he may not care about the offseason rankings, he’s undoubtedly proving them wrong.

Kirk Cousins

Like Smith, he probably doesn’t care about outside criticism, but only a few players are under as much scrutiny as Cousins.

The mostly narrative-based points of critique didn’t age well in Sunday’s game. He, or better said, his team won a big game against the division rival. He put up numbers in non-garbage time, and he passed the eye test. Cousins finished the game with 277 passing yards, two scores, and without a turnover.

Watch: Kirk Cousins Takes Center Stage in Locker Room after Win over GB
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Multiple big plays, especially to Justin Jefferson, beat the Packers in the first half. He will never be a great improviser, but he improved his pocket movement. On multiple occasions, Cousins stepped up in the pocket and found a receiver. He also played great under pressure whenever the offensive line didn’t hold up.

After the game, he showed that he is embracing the leadership role and handed out the first game balls in the season to general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell.

Greg Joseph

The Vikings kicker did not miss one of his five attempts. He made all three field goals and both extra points. One of the field goals even traveled 56 yards and tied the longest in Vikings franchise history. The kick was easily good from over 60 yards, so the franchise record is in jeopardy.

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a while since the Vikings had trust in a kicker, and the fans are traumatized for good reasons, but Joseph might be able to break the curse.

Losers

It’s not easy to find losers in the game. The Vikings dominated the Packers, and there were only a few critique points.

Patrick Peterson

Peterson is 32 years old, and it shows on the field. Unlike the aforementioned Smith at safety, Peterson is a cornerback and needs his speed. On the first defensive play of the game, rookie Christian Watson burnt the veteran cornerback and would’ve scored a 75-yard touchdown if he didn’t drop the ball. That play could’ve changed the entire game. He had a few more struggles in coverage for short gains.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson. MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

Peterson is an exceptional tackler and helps in the running game, but the coverage has to be monitored. He’s also an extremely smart player and won’t have any mental hiccups. He may be able to bounce back in the next game.

Opposing Quarterbacks

After a strong performance, it’s necessary to get creative to find a few losers. The Vikings’ pass rush was remarkable. Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Jordan Hicks, and D.J. Wonnum all finished with one sack each.

Za'Darius Smith Fulfilled the Prophecy
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates with linebacker Danielle Hunter. © Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

In addition, they got to Rodgers countless times and forced him to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Given the talent of the Vikings’ front, this type of pass rush should be sustainable.

Pass Blocking

Despite the good results of the Vikings’ passing offense, the pass protection was a disaster. Pressured on 42% of the plays, Cousins still found a way to keep the offense rolling. Per PFF, rookie Ed Ingram allowed five pressures, center Garrett Bradbury four, and the two tackles O’Neill and Darrisaw three. That is unacceptable.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

Every season, Cousins has to deal with suspect pockets. That’s not good, considering his status as a pocket passer.

The group will face a tough Eagles defensive line on Monday. Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Fletcher Cox are not an easy matchup.


Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt