Despite attempting to build on a memorable season from 2017, the Minnesota Vikings surprisingly missed the postseason in 2018. Even with former Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins brought aboard, the Vikings were stopped in their tracks by the upstart Chicago Bears, the only team to reach the playoffs from the NFC North division a season ago.
With Cousins now gearing up to enter his second season as a member of the Vikings, Minnesota is currently preparing to kick off the 2019 regular season against the always dangerous Atlanta Falcons. With the Vikings set to play host to the Falcons at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday afternoon, Cousins will need to start his season off on a high note as Minnesota is looking to make it back into Super Bowl contention sooner rather than later.
Even though Cousins and company missed out on the postseason in 2018, the 31-year-old signal-caller still produced some gaudy numbers in his first go-round in Minnesota. While a similar season should be in store for Cousins this time around, the former Redskins quarterback previously tallied 4,298 passing yards, 30 touchdowns through the air and a 70.1 completion percentage in 2018. Appearing in all 16 regular-season games as well, Cousins tossed 10 interceptions to coincide with his 59.5 QBR and 99.7 rating.
Throwing for at least 4,000 yards and tossing at least 25 touchdown passes in each of the last four seasons, Cousins recorded his second-most passing yards in a single season, his highest touchdown total and best completion percentage — all of which came immediately after he received a three-year, $84 million free-agent contract from the Vikings.
As durable as they come, Cousins has notably appeared in all 16 regular-season games in each of the last four seasons overall. As a result, one can expect a hard-fought effort from the veteran signal-caller come Sunday against the Falcons as the Vikings will also more than likely allow him to air it out with a high-powered Atlanta offense on the opposite sideline. With the tandem of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs flanking the Vikings offense paired with running back Dalvin Cook, Cousins will certainly have options against the Falcons, which could lead to a huge statistical performance — especially with the team kicking things off at home in Minnesota.
It is almost a guarantee that Cousins will throw for at least 300 yards through the air paired with multiple touchdown passes against the Falcons, a team that saw its defense finish 28th in the league last season in terms of total defense. However, he will need to protect the football as turnovers — interceptions and fumbles alike — will be unacceptable in what figures to a be a high scoring affair in Week 1.
In 2018, the Vikings offense ranked 20th in terms of total offense, though Minnesota came in at No. 13th in passing yards per game. On the other hand, the Falcons slotted in at No. 6 and No. 4, respectively, in those categories last season aiding the notion of a potential shootout. Because the Vikings sport a much better defense than the Falcons, perhaps keeping the Minnesota offense on the field — and the Falcons offense off of it — for the majority of the game will help Cousins’ efforts individually and otherwise.
The former fourth-round NFL Draft pick from 2012 out of Michigan State did not have to face off against the pesky Falcons last season while the Vikings only matched up against the surging New Orleans Saints in terms of NFC South opponents in 2018. Unfortunately, Cousins was unable to outduel future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees as the Saints were victorious, 30-20, in Minnesota.
The last time that Cousins suited up against the Falcons was back in 2015 as a member of the Redskins, where he was a starter for the final three of his six seasons in Washington. As a result of such an outing, Cousins finished 21-of-32 for 219 yards, one touchdown, two picks, and one sack. The Falcons came out on top by the score of 25-19 in overtime.
Turning the attention back on the present, the Vikings will follow the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Falcons with matchups against the rival Green Bay Packers, suddenly competitive Oakland Raiders and strengthened Chicago Bears, which means that Minnesota can ill afford a loss to Atlanta. Because of the rest of the talent that surrounds Minnesota in the NFC North in 2019, the Vikings must get off to a hot start to keep up with the rest of the pack that is the Packers, Bears and Detroit Lions.