There is little doubt that the Denver Broncos have a monumental task ahead of them. Outside perhaps the Kansas City Chiefs, there may not be another team as formidable on the remaining schedule as the Minnesota Vikings.
To get an idea how Vic Fangio could spring the upset, I spoke with the Daily Norseman’s Christopher Gates. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
1st and 10
What parts of the Broncos offense are most concerning for the Vikings?
Gates: With no disrespect meant to Brandon Allen, I think the Vikings are going to have to focus on stopping the Denver running game first and making the Broncos beat them through the air. Both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have proven themselves to be capable running backs, particularly Lindsay, who has enough shiftiness to give the Vikings problems if they don’t stay disciplined.
In the passing game, the Vikings are going to have to be aware of where Courtland Sutton is on every play. With Emmanuel Sanders now gone, Sutton is the most dynamic threat the Vikings face, and the one real downfield threat the Broncos have in the passing game. But the most important thing is going to be slowing down the run and keeping the Broncos behind schedule on second and third down, giving the Vikings the opportunity to come after Brandon Allen.
Most sacks amongst teammates this season:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 8, 2019
1. Za’Darius Smith & Preston Smith: 16.5
2. Chandler Jones & Terrell Suggs: 14.5
3. Danielle Hunter & Everson Griffen: 14
4. Myles Garrett & Larry Ogunjobi: 14
T-5. Shaq Barrett & Carl Nassib: 13.5
T-5. TJ Watt & Bud Dupree: 13.5
2nd and 10
How can Vic Fangio slow down Kirk Cousins and the aerial attack?
Gates: Cousins has basically lived off of play-action this season, so the Broncos’ ability to stay disciplined will determine their level of success against him. The two worst games that Cousins has had this year, against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 and the Chicago Bears in Week 4, had him facing defenses that didn’t consistently bite on the fakes and stayed focused on him. The difficulty with that is that it can, potentially, lead to big gains on the ground, as we saw in the game Dalvin Cook had in that Green Bay loss.
The biggest thing the Broncos can do is to get pressure on Cousins, which is something he still has difficulty with. I understand that Von Miller hasn’t had the typical Von Miller season thus far, but he’s still a player that can make things miserable for an offense, and if the Broncos are going to slow the Vikings down on Sunday, he’s probably going to need to have the biggest role in making that happen.
Total quarterback pressures through Week 10, according to @PFF:— Vikings PR (@VikingsPR) November 14, 2019
1. @DHunt94_TX - 64
2. Za'Darius Smith - 57
3. @EversonGriffen - 56
4. J.J. Watt - 52
5t. Joey Bosa - 48
5t. Von Miller - 48
Send Hunter and Griffen to the Pro Bowl here: https://t.co/38f9Z1KWcH#NorseNotes pic.twitter.com/h2tqHODlu8
3rd and 10
What do you think Mike Zimmer does to attack Brandon Allen?
Gates: Mike Zimmer defenses generally have a great deal of success against rookie quarterbacks, particularly because of the number of different blitzes that the defense comes with over the course of a game. A lot of the Vikings’ blitzes have the same sort of look with linebackers lining up in the A-gaps, which helps to disguise things and cause confusion for even veteran quarterbacks.
If the Broncos can’t get their second and third down plays to a manageable length, Zimmer is going to bring some serious heat on Allen, and it’s going to be up to his offensive line to identify them before the snap and do what they can to stand up to it. Allen is making just his third NFL start, and if he doesn’t get some help from his supporting cast, Mike Zimmer is likely going to make things pretty rough on him on Sunday afternoon.
4th and 8
Are there any mismatches that have you licking your chops?
Gates: At this point, honestly, I think Dalvin Cook is a mismatch for pretty much any defense. The Denver defense actually appears to match up pretty well against the Vikings as far as the passing attack goes, but I’m not sure if there’s any team that has an answer for Cook with the way he’s performed this season.
He’s getting the job done on the ground, and the combination of Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak have put together an outstanding screen game this season that’s put Cook in second on the team in receptions, with only one less catch than Stefon Diggs on the season. Cook can just beat you in so many ways, and he’s one of those players that can beat you even if your defense does everything right. I’m not sure what sort of game plan the Broncos are going to come in with to try to slow down Cook, but it will be interesting to see if they can do it.
Dalvin Cook had 183 scrimmage yards in Dallas, giving him 1,415 this season, the most scrimmage yards through 10 games in Vikings history and the most by any player since DeMarco Murray in 2014.— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) November 11, 2019
How can the Broncos spring the upset?
Gates: The way for the Broncos to beat the Vikings on Sunday is going to center around a lot of the things we’ve mentioned. They need to find a way to slow down Dalvin Cook, get pressure on Kirk Cousins when the Vikings are behind schedule, and get some big plays on offense. The Vikings defense has been susceptible to the big play this season, so if Sutton can get behind the defense a couple of times he can do some damage. We’ve seen the Vikings come into a game as big favorites recently and end up with egg on their faces, so it’s something that’s certainly capable of happening. A lot of things are going to have to go right for the Broncos on Sunday to make it happen, but this is the National Football League, so it isn’t something that’s completely out of the realm of possibility.
Who will win?
This poll is closed
The Broncos by a lot.
The Broncos by a little.
The Vikings by a lot.
The Vikings by a little.