Ain’t this what they been waitin’ for? You ready?
It’s tough to find the value in moral victories when you currently sit at 1-4 in the National Football League. Especially when two divisional rivals are a combined 8-1 entering Week 6. But hey, the Minnesota Vikings played pretty damn well for three quarters last week on the road against an undefeated Seattle Seahawks ball club led by perennial MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson. Minnesota hung with an NFC contender and should feel plenty encouraged about the way they competed on Sunday Night Football.
Unfortunately, even the biggest Proponent of Purple Positivity can’t help but feel like they’re reaching when trying to find the good in a 1-4 football team. With the equally abysmal 0-5 Atlanta Falcons coming to town, this Week 6 matchup is a far cry from the emotional roller coaster of the 1998 NFC Championship game between these two teams.
But to hell with the existing negative reality associated with this franchise! Let’s dream build, shall we?!
Purple Pipe Dream No. 1:
Following the recent dismissal of 2016 NFC Champion head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will be looking for the team’s first win of the season in his interim head coaching debut against the Vikings in Week 6. Just like last week’s contest against the undefeated Seahawks, the Falcons will enter US Bank Stadium on Sunday with a secondary that is begging to be exposed by Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Through five weeks, Atlanta is 31st in passing yards allowed (335.8 yards per game) and passing touchdowns allowed (3 TDs per game).
Even though the Vikings will never return to being a pass-happy offense as long as Kirk Cousins is around, Minnesota has an obvious mismatch this week against the opposition’s secondary. Since taking a backseat to Jefferson during the rookie’s Week 3 coming out party, Thielen has amassed 23 targets, 17 receptions, 194 yards and 3 touchdowns over the past two games against Houston and Seattle. With Atlanta having no shot whatsoever at slowing down The Great Lakes’ Hope, it’s by no means a purple pipe dream to sit here and say that Thielen will go absolutely bonkers in this one.
When you throw in the fact that Julio Jones will be making his return to the Atlanta lineup since missing the last game and a half, points will more than likely be coming in bunches in this one. More on Julio to come. But with Minnesota’s offense more than likely forced to keep their foot on the gas for 60 minutes in hopes of keeping pace with the Dirty Birds, we just might get some fireworks reminiscent of those 1998 days.
Last week alone, the Falcons secondary allowed Carolina Panthers receiver tandem D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson to combine for 205 receiving yards and a touchdown. Those are pretty cute numbers, I suppose.
Would you be content if Thielen and Jefferson combined for a quick 205 tomorrow afternoon inside the friendly confines of US Bank Stadium?
But for Purple Pipe Dreams and Nightmare?!?! What do you think, Matty Mac? Will those numbers suffice for a proper Purple Pipe Dreams and Nightmare piece?
In the spirit of staying as weird as humanly possible while still maintaining the tiniest sliver of reality, let’s turn it up a notch on these Week 6 projections for our receiver duo. At home, in a perfectly controlled environment for our pal Kirky, the Vikings receivers have history in their sights.
With Dalvin Cook already having been ruled out for the contest, the Vikings can’t lean on the running game against the Falcons. Instead, Gary Kubiak and the Minnesota offense turn US Bank Stadium into the Fourth of July with four quarters worth of fireworks. Both Thielen and Jefferson get behind the Atlanta secondary and record their own touchdowns of 50-plus yards. And don’t you worry, Skoldiers, the fireworks don’t stop there. Cousins is able to sustain drives all day by continuing to find his most trusted receivers, picking up critical third down conversions throughout the afternoon.
Don’t get me the wrong, the Vikings aren’t going to abandon the run entirely. Instead, they’ll be just effective as they need to be in order to slice and dice the inferior Atlanta secondary by feeding their top playmakers through the play-action passing game. When the clock reads triple zeros at around 2:55 pm CST on Sunday afternoon, Thielen and Jefferson will BOTH have 200-yard receiving games under their belts as the Vikings win a shootout 41-38.
Purple Pipe Dream No. 2:
The once well-respected Mike Zimmer Minnesota Vikings defense has been a shell of itself in 2020, ranking 27th in points allowed and 26th in total yards allowed. Granted, a lot of that can be attributed to All-Pro defensive end Danielle Hunter missing the entire season, but Zimmer’s scheme and staples on the defensive side of the ball such as Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks should have Vikings fans expecting more.
But what if for today, and probably the only day of the 2020 season, Week 6 served as Doc Brown’s DeLorean? With Vikings fans near and far tuning in for a high noon kickoff, their couches will essentially serve as a vehicle in which they put the pedal to the medal and fire up the time machine to 1.21 gigawatts while reaching a speed of 88 miles per hour?
As Doc Brown so eloquently said above: Today, we don’t need (Xavier) Rhodes.
The Vikings defense turns back the clock and puts on a performance that we’ve all come to expect out of the spitfire defensive mastermind in Zimmer. Yannick Ngakoue adds to his impressive sack totals to start the year, chipping in a hat trick on Sunday as he absolutely dominates Atlanta’s left tackle, Jake Matthews.
The fun most definitely doesn’t end with the newest addition to the Vikings defense.
Harrison Smith plays the role of Jim Edmonds in center field all afternoon, harassing Julio and Calvin Ridley by taking away all of the deep shots that Atlanta so desperately wants to convert on. After three quarters of frustration, Matt Ryan starts taking shots deep down the field to try and get his former Alabama Crimson Tide receivers going, but Harry the Hitman will have none of that today.
Smith picks off not one, but two Ryan pass attempts and makes a house call for his second interception of the day, taking it 105 yards back to the crib.
It may just be for one day this year, Vikings fans, but who says we can’t make the most of it while we’ve got it, right?! Minnesota rides their dominant defense and play control offensively, allowing Alexander Mattison to grind out positive yardage, keep the chains moving, and make sure Matt Ryan and that Falcons offense gets nice and comfortable on the opposing sideline while watching the Vikings offense.
The Vikings pitch a shutout in this one, winning 27-0 as the Falcons appear to all but solidify their pole positioning for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Hold up wait a minute, ya’ll thought I was finished?
It just wouldn’t be right doing my piece without including our most terrifying nightmare for this game against the Falcons. As mentioned previously, Atlanta welcomes back future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones to the lineup today.
While some of you have probably had Julio on a fantasy team or two over the years, we’re all pretty well versed in how spectacular he’s been throughout his career. I can only hope that you were as fortunate as I was to have Julio on a fantasy roster in 2016 when he decided to go for 300 (THREE HUNDRED) receiving yards against the Carolina Panthers.
That 2016 game against Carolina for Julio ranks seventh all-time in NFL single game receiving yardage history.
You’re gosh darn right, Vikings fans. We’re going there today.
Despite playing relatively well for much of the game last week against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings rookie corners were exposed in crunch time by D.K. Metcalf (I tried to warn you, guys and gals). Dirk Koetter and the Falcons offense don’t waste a single second in trying to get cute against the young Vikings secondary. They know exactly what they want to get out of their star studded receiver and they decide to take countless shots deep down the field for their guy donning No. 11.
And as we already know how this ends for everybody in purple, it’s a complete blood bath out there. Julio runs untouched down the field for three touchdowns while setting the NFL single game receiving record, compiling 350 yards against a Vikings secondary that currently ranks 27th in the league in passing yards allowed.
Don’t fool yourselves, Vikings fans: This is a nightmare that is definitely within the realm of possibility.
And to be honest, I hope it happens. Just so the Vikings fans who happen to have Julio on their fantasy rosters actually have something that can cheer for while watching a Vikings game for a change.