Sean Payton Glad the Broncos Aren’t Heading to Minnesota

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

Last week, memories of the Minneapolis miracle had the Denver Broncos head coach spooked. This week, Sean Payton is glad the Broncos aren’t heading to Minnesota this week.

Sean Payton Glad the Broncos Aren’t Heading to Minnesota

Why? Brian Flores and his defense. The blitz-heavy Vikings defense has become a problem for NFL offenses. The Vikings bring the pressure at an astounding rate, but what makes it even more difficult is teams don’t know where the pressure is coming from. Flores doesn’t just send everybody every time. The blitzes are disguised with players dropping back into coverage and others coming up to blitz late.

Sean Payton Glad
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s a problem the opposition has to solve if they are going to beat the Vikings — something no team has done in the last five attempts. A home game is more advantageous for the opposition than trying to do it in front of a raucous crowd at US Bank Stadium. Something Payton talked about with the media this week. “For the last 48 hours, we’ve looked at all the tape… In this type of game, I’m glad we’re playing at home.”

The Vikings also use shifts on the defensive line, something Flores has said Harrison Phillips is in charge of. They’ve drawn false starts in critical situations in each of the last two weeks. 

The Broncos offense needs good communication up front if they are going to solve the riddle of the Flores blitz. Theoretically, that should be easier on their home field, but it will still be anything but easy. The Vikings’ defense has hit its stride in recent weeks, having some game time under their belts utilizing the Flores defense. It’s a defense that is wildly different from the one Minnesota employee last season under defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

Defense Will Be Key

I’m not expecting a shootout in Denver. This game will be a battle with two improving defenses being tough to crack. Vikings EPA/Play Ranking for the defense through 10 weeks is 9th. That has been steadily on the rise throughout the season as the defense keeps on getting better. The Broncos got torched by the Miami Dolphins for 70 points back in Week 3, but recent weeks have seen improvement. They have kept the Chiefs (twice) and Bills offenses scoring down, winning two of the games.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have been dealt a major blow on defense with the news that Jordan Hicks has gone on to IR. A surgical procedure was required to elevate compartment syndrome, and Hicks will be missing indefinitely. Not only was the veteran having a great season, but Hicks was the man who had the green dot — responsible for relaying the defensive play calls. Ivan Pace is set to take on Hicks’ role on defense, which is a big ask for the rookie. Pace has taken everything in his stride so far this season and performed incredibly well. The Vikings will hope it’s more of the same with his expanded role.

The NFL’s Form Teams

This will be a battle of the league’s two in-form teams. Nobody has a longer win streak than the Vikings five games. In second place are the Broncos, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, with a three-game win streak. The streak can only continue for one team this week. If the Broncos want to claw themselves back into the AFC playoff picture, they must continue winning with little margin for error. Amazingly, after a 1-4 start to the season, the Vikings have some breathing space in the NFC playoff picture.

Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson

Sitting a 6-4, a loss in Denver wouldn’t be catastrophic for the Vikings playoff hopes. Minnesota won’t be traveling to Denver with anything other than victory on their mind and expecting to continue their league-leading win streak. That’s where this team is under Kevin O’Connell — a team that expects to win.

Payton may be glad his team is playing at home this week, but the Vikings will play to sour his Sunday night.