The Minnesota Vikings new head coach has gone through plenty of “firsts” during his inaugural season as head coach. On Sunday, Kevin O’Connell will experience another new “first” as he gets to show his chops against a familiar opponent. How that goes could write the way for the rest of the season.
Thus far the Vikings have largely shocked the national scene by owning a commanding 10-2 record through 13 weeks. They’re all but a shoo-in to win the NFC North, and they still possess an opportunity to claim the number 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Coming off the disaster that was Mike Zimmer last season, it’s hard to be anything but pleased with this result.
Facing a Detroit Lions team that nearly came into U.S. Bank Stadium during Week 3 and knocked off the Vikings, O’Connell will be dealing with a very similar set of tools at his disposal. Minnesota is relatively healthy at this point, getting back both Christian Darrisaw and Cam Dantzler in this contest.
While Irv Smith Jr. remains on injured reserve, the Vikings have picked up a better option in T.J. Hockenson to replace him. The parts on offense are there, and those on defense are largely unchanged.
What O’Connell must do is best Dan Campbell when it comes to making adjustments. O’Connell struggled to find answers in a drubbing against the Dallas Cowboys.
As things got pear-shaped mid-game for Minnesota, there was very little in the form of tweaks made to turn the tide. Now with weeks of preparation and film leading up to this point, it’s a matching of wits to see which coach has their team most well-positioned to emerge victorious.
It took a 4th quarter explosion by the offense to come out on top against the Lions at home, but that would be a tough task to accomplish again and do so on the road. Justin Jefferson has to be more involved than he was the first time around, and O’Connell must put the division on notice in showing he has the chops to make key adjustments.
Minnesota faces a pair of unfamiliar foes in the next two weeks, but wraps up the season against divisional rivals. Both the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers would love to knock off the Vikings heading into the playoffs, and how O’Connell shows he can handle seeing a team for a second time could give each of those coaches insight in doing so.
While the Bears and Packers aren’t the same quality of team that the Lions have flashed this season, both are plenty capable of playing spoiler to additional wins being racked up. If O’Connell can orchestrate a gameplan that gives Minnesota a much-needed blowout win, it certainly should put the league on notice regarding his preparation abilities.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.