The Minnesota Vikings were the consensus best team in the NFC North headed into the 2018 season. It made sense. They’re reigning division champs
, they added a bonafide franchise quarterback, their defense returns just about everyone and even added Sheldon Richardson. But it’s been a rocky start to the season for the Vikings. After Thursday’s nights 38-31 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Vikings are now just 1-2-1, and had it not been for a fortunate roughing the passer penalty, Minnesota would currently sit at the bottom of NFC North at 1-3. But even so, Lions fans crowned the Vikings as the best team in the division earlier in the week. Has their opinion changed after a close loss to the now 4-0 Rams?Today’s Question of the Day is:Are the Minnesota Vikings any good?My answer: Yes, unfortunately. They haven’t been a great football team through four weeks, and it certainly seems like we (see: me) overrated them a bit. Their offensive line problems are real, and it has led to too many turnovers. Kirk Cousins has actually been playing pretty well (103.6 passer rating), but he’s lost three fumbles in four games and thrown two interceptions largely because of inconsistent pass protection.Then there’s the defense. Thursday night they had no answer for Jared Goff—who finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Minnesota has now given up 94 total points in the past three games
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, and some are starting to believe their defense is way overrated.I’m not there quite yet. The defense is just too talented right now at this point for them to be playing this poorly this consistently. The Rams have the hottest offense in the league right now. Aaron Rodgers can dissect even the most fundamentally sound defenses. As for last week’s game against the Bills... well, I don’t have much of an answer for that other than the fact that a couple of Cousins turnovers put Minnesota’s defense in a vulnerable spot. Are the Vikings worse than I had originally thought. Yes, it’s pretty safe to say that now. But this is still a team that will contend for the division well into December. Your turn.Unsung hero of the week: Frequent Lions nemesis turns into ally in primetime After faltering on the national stage and suffering a heartbreaking loss in Week 2, hopes were not high going into the Lions’ “Sunday Night Football” matchup against the New England Patriots, who haven’t lost back-to-back games since the 2015 season. In a pleasant surprise, the Lions came out on fire, dominating the game from the first snap to the last in a bout where just about everyone shined. With that being the case, there are plenty of players to choose from for this week’s unsung hero of the week award. Naturally, I chose someone other than a Lions player. Unsung hero of the week: the refereesLast night’s game featured a lot of calls that could have been called, but weren’t. The entire night
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, Clete Blakeman’s crew allowed the Lions and Patriots to play aggressively on the ground and in the air. That meant good things for the Lions secondary: Their aggressive man-coverage style fairs best when the refs let them get physical (looking at you, Nevin Lawson).While the running game was what kept Tom Brady & Co. on the sidelines for much of the game, the ability of the Lions defense to play aggressively was what kept them out of the end zone while they were on the field. There were numerous times the defensive line was able to pressure or even sack Brady as a result of the good coverage downfield, with NBC’s broadcast highlighting a play where all Patriots receivers were locked up in coverage for four whole seconds. On top of that, the defense was able to play to their natural tendencies. If any one play summed this up, it was when Tom Brady aired out the ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski down the right sideline. While Gronk was double covered, he had separation from Lions defenders and his size advantage means he’s never not open. The Lions defensive backs got physical in the air however, and Gronkowski was thrown off his route, missed the ball, and begged for a flag on a play where just about any other refereeing crew would’ve thrown one. One more memorable moment was when Tom Brady
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, facing only minimal pressure, aired a ball out down the field to no man’s land. Whether he thought a referee was a receiver or what, nobody really knows, but the ball had no business going there. After lots of deliberation, the referees correctly flagged Brady for intentional grounding in one of the weirdest scenarios of that call that you’ll ever see, and the Ford Field crowd loved it. There was a lot to love from the Lions’ performance against the Pats, and unsung hero of the week could’ve legitimately gone to about half of the active roster. However, it was great to see the Lions not get momentum shredded by referees on primetime TV as has happened in the past (coughcoughDallasCowboys).Whose optimal performance did you like from Sunday night? Let us know in the comments!