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Scouting the Enemy: Minnesota Vikings

The Denver Broncos host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. Let’s take a deeper dive into Denver’s Week 11 opponent.

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” After the first six games of the season, most of Broncos Country had given up on the Denver Broncos and were ready to tank for the best pick possible in the 2024 NFL Draft. Fast forward a few months later and the feeling is the opposite.

The Broncos have reeled off three victories in a row against the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Buffalo Bills. Sporting a 4-5 record, they are just one game out of an AFC wildcard spot. Up next for the Broncos—the Minnesota Vikings. An opponent who is riding a league best five-game winning streak and have their defense on their way to the Mile High City for a showdown on Sunday Night Football.

It should be another exciting game. Let’s take a deeper look at Denver’s opponent this weekend.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Review

Kevin O’Connell had an incredible first season as a head coach in the National Football league. The Vikings were the cream of the crop in the NFC North finishing with a 13-4 record. Their offense was eigth in points scored and seventh in total yardage, but their defense was their weakness raking 28th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed.

2023 Offseason Moves and Acquisitions

The Vikings had a busy offseason adding a myriad of players to their roster, but Broncos fans will be most familiar with offensive guard Dalton Risner, who was a late (in season) addition to their squad. Their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, wide receiver Jordan Addison, has had an incredible rookie season to date and looks to be another star in the making. On the coaching side of things, Brian Flores was hired to improve their defense after a disastrous showing under Ed Donatell, who Broncos fans will remember during his time with the Broncos under former head coach Vic Fangio.

Vikings X-Factor on Offense: Jordan Addison, WR

With Kirk Cousins out for the season and All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson questionable, I’ve slated rookie standout Jordan Addison as their offensive X-Factor for Sunday night’s matchup.

While the Broncos have been impressed with second-round pick Marvin Mims Jr., Minnesota has found themselves another playmaker at the wide receiver position who deserves a lot of praise and will garner a lot of game-planning attention on Sunday.

Addison has embarked on an incredible rookie campaign. Through ten games, he has reeled in 45 receptions for 603 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those seven touchdowns tie him with Courtland Sutton and Stefon Diggs for second-best in the league trailing only Tyreek Hill. The former USC Trojans standout has been one of the league’s most consistent playmakers at the position despite his rookie status. A savvy route runner with slippery ability to get open, Addison’s become the Vikings go-to wideout with the aforementioned Jefferson sidelined.

He faces his toughest matchup of the year going up against All-Pro cornerback Patrick Surtain [assuming Justin Jefferson isn’t able to play], but Broncos fans shouldn’t sleep on his capabilities as a player. Erasing him from their Josha Dobbs led aerial attack will be important in order to secure their fifth win of the regular season. And that job becomes even harder if Jefferson is somehow able to go.

Vikings X-Factor on Defense: Danielle Hunter, EDGE

At 29 years of age and in his eighth season with the Minnesota Vikings, Danielle Hunter is on pace for his best season yet in the NFL. Which is pretty incredible all things considered, knowing he had back-to-back seasons of 14.5 sacks in 2018 and 2019 which earned him All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honors.

Through ten games this season, he has a league-best 11 sacks, 48 tackles (14 tackles for loss) and 12 quarterback hits. That made him an easy choice for their Defensive X-Factor of the Week going up against the Broncos. Brian Flores runs an extremely aggressive defense known for blitzing and their defensive front is doing a great job giving Hunter an advantage on one-on-one opportunities. Flores’ aggressive defense and blitz-heavy scheme will give Sean Payton and Russell Wilson all they can handle offensively.

The team is going to need a big game out of Mike McGlinchey. He performed well against the Bills (with additional help at TE platooned to his side), but faces the league’s best pass rusher who's a speed blur off the edge on Sunday. Finding a way to limit Hunter’s impact on the game is going to be paramount if Denver hopes to secure their fifth victory on the season. If there is any singular matchup I’m very worried about, Hunter vs. McGlinchey would be it. Keep an eye on this one.

How the Broncos can earn their fourth-straight victory against the Vikings

Minnesota’s strength heading into their matchup against the Broncos is their defense. Wilson is one of the league’s worst passers against the blitz and I do have some major concerns on how they are going to combat that. As I said on my Horse Tracks podcast earlier in the week, a quick passing game with plenty of running back screens should help do the trick.

The Vikings defense doesn’t allow many big runs and hasn’t allowed over a 20-yard rush throughout the season. I’d expect the Broncos to still use a heavy dose of Javonte Williams, but don’t be surprised if Samaje Perine earns a lot of reps this week as a complimentary option. He is the player I think can help propel the Broncos to victory this weekend.

On top of that, Vance Joseph’s defense needs to continue their turnover streak. I don’t expect as many as the past few games, but if they can get after Joshua Dobbs and force some bad throws or even fumbles (he leads the league with 11 at the quarterback position)—that would help Denver’s chances tremendously.

Hart’s Final Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Vikings 20.