The Vikings Have One X-Factor Player vs. Chiefs

Nov 3, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans show their support during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are 3.5-point home underdogs this Sunday versus the Kansas City Chiefs, a game kicking off at 3:25 pm CST.

Patrick Mahomes hopes to cross the Vikings off his list, the only NFL team he has yet to conquer, mainly because he hasn’t personally played against them.

The Vikings Have One X-Factor Player vs. Chiefs

And if the Vikings want to rain on Mahomes’ parade, one man will be the x-factor difference-maker — Marcus Davenport.

The Vikings Have One
Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers place kicker Eddy Pineiro (4) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Marcus Davenport (0) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, Davenport isn’t a little-known defender or a player lurking in the shadows to make his mark; he’s the starting outside linebacker opposite Danielle Hunter. But Davenport missed most of the Vikings first three games with a lingering ankle injury, causing a delay to begin his purple career.

Minnesota signed Davenport in March for one year and $13 million.

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Marcus Davenport (0) pressures Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young (9) in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, the Vikings need Davenport’s frenzied pass rush to thwart the Super Bowl champions. Kevin O’Connell’s team will go as far as Davenport will allow, as without his services in Weeks 1-3, the Vikings pass rush was puny. The aforementioned Hunter did his part, but the reservist EDGE rushers, well, did not.

When Davenport was fully inserted into the lineup last weekend, Vikings fans learned why general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah wanted him on the team as a keynote free-agent addition. The man made his mark at Carolina, tallying 4 tackles, 2 pressures, a sack, a QB hit, and a tackle for loss and aiding the Vikings toward their first victory of 2023, which was desperately needed if the club wants to contend for the postseason.

Contribution from Free
Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Marcus Davenport addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Davenport joined the Vikings in March of 2023 after four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

His organic pressure on Bryce Young was the special sauce, and such a pass rush, sans Hunter, was wholly absent in Vikings games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Los Angeles Chargers. When the Vikings repeatedly sent the house via blitz at Justin Herbert 12 days ago, the plan emphatically failed, to the tune of Herbert’s 405 passing yards.

Davenport must “get home” on Mahomes a few times. Otherwise, the Vikings risk a repeat of the Chargers game. If Brian Flores’ defense didn’t work against Herbert, it assuredly would fail versus Mahomes. The logic isn’t complicated.

However, a ferocious Davenport, the one on display in Charlotte, flips the script. The “other” blitzers like Harrison Smith, Ivan Pace, or Jordan Hicks may terrorize Mahomes, to an extent, if Davenport can win his individual matchup. Without Davenport in the starting lineup, his teammates, D.J. Wonnum and Patrick Jones, mostly lost their matchups, preventing the extra blitz from taking effect.

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport arrives on the red carpet before the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

To be clear, none of these Davenport best-laid plans matter too much if the Vikings fumble the ball four times like they did in Philadelphia. Yet, if Minnesota nips the turnover malady in the bud and Davenport wreaks havoc, the Vikings have a puncher’s chance at downing the champs.

Hunter will do his thing — he always does — but needs a Za’Darius Smith-like copilot, which can be Davenport.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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