Week 16’s edition of Monday Night Football couldn’t be a better game. The Minnesota Vikings will face the Green Bay Packers in a game crucial to playoff seeding. Given the importance of the game, it’s fair to wonder if Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will even show up to the stadium.
But in all seriousness, Cousins has bucked the criticism of his big-game play, at least for now. The former Michigan State Spartan is in line for another huge performance that will prove he was one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs of 2019.
The Packers are playing for a top-two seed in the NFC. That’s pretty incredible for a team that fields the 14th ranked scoring offense and the ninth-ranked defense in the NFL. My point is that Green Bay is playing through a soft schedule, and the result could be a first-round bye. They’ve won only two games against teams that currently have winning records, with one of them being the Vikings. All in all, this Packers team is rocking an inflated winning record and is simply not as good as everyone thinks.
All of that bodes well for Cousins, who’s been one of the league’s best passers this season. He has 3,481 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He’s also just getting his best receiver back in Adam Thielen. Playing at home in US Bank Stadium is also a huge advantage, as its shelter from the elements and Packer fans will definitely help the Vikings.
Another thing working in favor of Cousins’ stats is star running back Dalvin Cook’s absence. Without Cook, all of the offensive attention will be on Cousins and his two Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers. Stefon Diggs and Thielen are huge weapons that terrorize the Packers on a yearly basis, and there’s no reason for that to change. The Packers don’t match up well at all with that dynamic duo. Cornerback Jaire Alexander usually guards Thielen and usually struggles. Kevin King will be forced to match up with Diggs, which is a huge plus for the Vikings. King has played relatively well all year, but in no way is he able to guard Diggs. Cousins should be able to exploit both of these matchups fairly easily.
If Kirk Cousins was playing a tougher opponent on a national stage, I would be less confident in his prospects. But the Packers are a wild card caliber team masquerading as a top seed in the NFC, and Minnesota will prove that on Monday night.