Once again, the defense dominates another #VikingsRank following a dominant effor and a mediocre offensive performance.
Heading into a battle for NFC North supremacy against the Packers, these are the 15 guys who need to step up and make plays.
15. Case Keenum
It looks like this is Keenum’s job a little longer, perhaps even until Teddy Bridgewater is ready to go. And given the way he has played, one could certainly do a lot worse with a backup. Keenum is currently 10th in the league in passer rating, 12th in yard per attempt and has yet to turn the ball over. He was especially sharp Monday given the fact that he was not tabbed to start. If it is only a few more starts, it will be one of the finer seasons of relief by a Viking backup quarterback in recent memory.
14. Andrew Sendejo
Sendejo misplayed the ball on Mitchell Trubisky’s lone touchdown pass, only getting a hand on it when it should have been intercepted. That play aside, Sendejo was once again a major presence in run support and showed fearlessness in making unaware receivers pay for entering his zone.
13. Jerick McKinnon
McKinnon’s 95 yards, in particular his 58-yard touchdown, were vital to the Vikings win on Monday night. His production has been minimal in the other four games but moving forward, it looks like Pat Shurmur is going to be depending on McKinnon more and more. If he continues to show off his big-play ability it would go a long way to making up for the absence of Dalvin Cook.
12. Trae Waynes
We have been hesitant to put Waynes on this list for weeks because of his proclivity to allow big plays. But after extensive viewing of his tape, it is time to give Waynes the credit he deserves. True, he was tagged for holding once and allowed catches on the first two passes of the game. But those completions were the only two he allowed to Trubisky. He ended with a targeted completion percentage of just 40 percent and a allowed rating of 56.3. Those numbers indicate an elite game, despite what fans want to believe about his play. And that is not even considering the fact that he is one of the best corners in the NFL in run support.
11. Eric Kendricks
It certainly was not Kendricks’ finest performance on Monday; he got caught up in blockers a little more than he usually does. However, he was again solid in pass coverage, recording a deflection, and he has been a tackling machine in every other game this season.
10. Kyle Rudolph
Monday was a more accurate depiction of the Rudolph fans have come to expect. He set a season-high in catches with six and targets with nine while also hauling in his second touchdown of the season.
9. Riley Reiff
Reiff just continues to be one of the best additions from the offseason. The left side of the line was the only part that was working well on Monday as Mike Remmers, Pat Elflein and Joe Berger struggled. Reiff especially did a good job of keeping the pressure away from the blind side, which was imperative given the struggles of Remmers on the other side.
8. Adam Thielen
A slow start to the passing game Monday really hampered everyone’s final numbers. But that does not take away from the fact that Thielen has been one of the top receivers in the league early on. And, despite a down performance by his standards, he still had the second-most targets in the game.
7. Danielle Hunter
Hunter has really emerged as the top pass-rushing threat on the Vikings these past two weeks. Pro Football Focus recorded him as having three pressures on 21 pass-rush snaps, giving him one of the better productivity percentages around the league in week five.
6. Xavier Rhodes
There was not a lot of focus on Rhodes against Chicago because, frankly, Chicago has no big receiving threats. But everyone in the league has Rhodes marked down as a shut-down corner and he will get another chance to prove it Sunday against Jordy Nelson.
5. Stefon Diggs
Diggs suffered a groin injury against Chicago which ultimately limited him to just one catch and four yards. But like Thielen, he is already an established star by this point and one sub-par game does not affect his stock around the league.
4. Anthony Barr
Barr only finished with four tackles somehow against Chicago but he seemed to be around every single play. Pro Football Focus has him as the sixth-most productive inside linebacker in football right now and his versatility is awe-inspiring at times.
3. Linval Joseph
Joseph was the leading tackler against Chicago but he drops out of the top spot partially due to the play of the current top two and partially due to a bad illegal use of hands penalty. Still, Joseph continues to be a beast in run-stuffing and recovered the fumble on a strip-sack by Everson Griffen in the second quarter.
2. Harrison Smith
The top-two are really 1A and 1B at this point. Smith made the big play, baiting Trubisky into a bad pass and getting the key interception that set up the game-winning field goal. He also continues to dominate in run-stop and general pass-coverage both as a strong safety and as a center field.
1. Everson Griffen
Griffen seems nigh-unblockable at this point and he is putting up the numbers to prove it. With his strip-sack of Trubisky he has now recorded a sack in all five games of the season and is tied for third in the league in total sacks. Throw in his productivity in the run game and you are likely to see an All-Pro selection from Griffen.
Cowboys lose a heartbreaker to the Packers