Vikings

Is Kirk Cousins the Best QB In the NFC North?

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea (USA TODAY Sports)

Last Sunday was just another day at the office for Kirk Cousins. Minnesota’s $150 million man completed 25 of 37 passes for 294 yards, two touchdowns, and lost a fumble in the Vikings’ 27-20 road victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. In the contest, Cousins compiled a passer rating of 109.5 and came up big on Minnesota’s final possession, shutting the door on a potential Chargers comeback. He completed four of five passes for 53 yards on the final drive, which included a 27-yard completion to Justin Jefferson on 3rd and 6 and an 18-yard completion to Adam Thielen on 3rd and 20 to set up the game-clinching fourth-down conversion.

Cousins’ play on Sunday silenced his many critics throughout the state of Minnesota for at least a week. However, he’s been a model of consistency over the past year and a half playing alongside Jefferson. As it stands now, Cousins has the sixth-best passer rating throughout the entire league at 104.0. And after Sunday’s performance, Cousins surpassed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in passer rating.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins is the highest-graded passer in the league this season with a grade of 90.0 through 10 weeks. And the praise from our friends at PFF doesn’t stop there. Cousins is the second-highest-graded (96.8) quarterback on deep attempts — throws that travel 20-plus yards. Cousins is also the highest-graded (95.2) quarterback on intermediate throws — passes that travel 10-19 yards through the air.

Not too shabby for a guy whose fan base can’t help but complain about his every move.

With Cousins’ stellar play mixed with Rodgers regressing from his MVP form of last season, is it fair to ask if Cousins finds himself as the new Quarterback King of the NFC North?

Cousins currently holds the edge over Rodgers in the following categories:

  • Pass attempts: 339 to 295
  • Passing yards: 2,434 to 2,186
  • Passing touchdowns: 18 to 17
  • Passer rating: 104.0 to 101.9
  • Completion percentage: 68.1% to 66.4%
  • Interceptions: two to four
  • Interception rate: 0.6% to 1.4%

If you’re a Skoldier who needs to take Cousins’ PFF grades with a grain of salt, even Football Outsiders has Cousins ahead of Rodgers in the following categories:

  • Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR)
  • Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)
  • Yards Above Replacement (YAR)
  • Value Over Average (VOA)
  • Effective Yards (EYds)

We all know how much it pains the Kirky doubters to admit it, but Cousins is playing at an elite level this season, no matter how you want to slice it. Don’t just take my word for it. PFF, Football Outsiders, and essentially every basic quarterback statistic illustrates, the Vikings have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today.

Considering that many Vikings fans made up their minds about Cousins long before this season, I’m genuinely curious why it’s like pulling teeth for this fanbase to embrace Cousins as the elite-level quarterback this franchise has been starving for.

Is it the $150 million contract?

His vaccination status?

The overall lack of success as a team?

Just as a reminder, football is still the ultimate team sport. While quarterback is the most critical position in all of sports, there are 21 other guys, plus backups and special teamers, who play a crucial role in winning and losing every week. So before you go blaming Cousins for Minnesota’s inability to compete in the playoffs consistently, remember that Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears have made the playoffs two out of the past three seasons with freakin’ Mitch Trubisky under center.

With Rodgers and the division-leading Packers coming to US Bank Stadium in Week 11, Cousins will have every opportunity to not only stake his claim as an unquestioned elite-level quarterback throughout the league but to silence local skeptics once and for all. With a win on Sunday, Cousins might save his magnum opus of “YOU LIKE THAT?!?!” directed at all of his critics — including some in nearby zip codes. And, my goodness, would it be a sight to behold.

As long as Cousins continues to play at the same level he’s maintained over the past 23 games (107.3 passer rating) with Justin Jefferson in the starting lineup, he can singlehandedly drag the Vikings back into the NFC wild card discussion while cementing his status as one of the best quarterbacks on the planet.

No matter how much it pains Vikings fans to admit.

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