The Minnesota Vikings came crashing back down to Earth in Week 11 after a huge victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 10 on the road. The Vikings had their doors blown off by the Dallas Cowboys, losing 40-3. They won’t have much time to lick their wounds as Minnesota has a quick turnaround, hosting the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving.
The Patriots are coming into the game with a ton of momentum as they are riding a three-game winning streak. Their defense has been the driving force in that as they have gotten on track after some early season struggles.
New England started the season 1-3, giving up at least 20 points three times, all losses. Since then they have gone 5-1, giving up over 20 points only once; against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football when they lost 33-14.
The Patriots do a great job of game planning every week and it will be no different this time. Bill Belichick can scheme to take top players out of the game, which is likely what he will do with Justin Jefferson this week.
Their defensive pressure will be the determining factor in this game. That is why the Vikings’ offensive line is the biggest x-factor in this matchup. With the Patriots likely keying in on Jefferson, the Vikings will need other players to step up and their success will come from the offensive line winning their matchups.
New England has found a ton of success this season when facing off against teams that run traditional, under-center offenses. The Baltimore Ravens and Bears both found a ton of success against the Patriots because of the mobile quarterbacks they deploy in Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields. The Vikings don’t have that, as Kirk Cousins is their starter, so the offensive line needs to be on point.
Matthew Judon is having an excellent season, leading the league with 13 sacks on the season. That is already a career-high for him as he has been worth every penny for the Patriots since they signed him in free agency. Slowing him and the rest of the pass rush down will be paramount in the Vikings’ game plan to find success.
Cousins has been dreadful when facing pressure this season with a completion rate of 42.3 compared to 73.6 when in a clean pocket. His turnover-worthy play rate more than doubles when facing pressure from 2.2 to 4.9, while his passer rating and PFF grade also plummet. In a clean pocket, he has a rating of 95.9 and a grade of 81.9 compared to a 64.4 rating and 52 grade when facing pressure.
If the Vikings’ offensive line can keep Cousins upright, they will have a great chance at getting back on track and snapping the Patriots’ winning streak. If not, it could be a long night for Minnesota, as New England’s passing defense is coming off two consecutive dominant performances.