The Minnesota Vikings passed their first test against Green Bay with flying colors.
The second one against Philadelphia, they didn't seem to have any answers.
Now, Minnesota will be tested again, this time by another formidable division opponent in the Detroit Lions. And the Vikings had a short week to study.
Alec Lewis and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic recently broke down what they will be watching during Sunday's game and what the Vikings biggest concerns and opportunities are heading into Week 3.
Lewis said he will be focused on Minnesota's defense and how it and Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell will respond after a tough first half put the Vikings out of reach against the Eagles. He wrote:
Though many analysts questioned the Vikings game plan against the Eagles, Donatell attributed the defensive struggles, more than anything else, to misplayed assignments. These were evident at all levels of the defensive tape, whether it was cornerback Cam Dantzler not staying with wide receiver Quez Watkins or linebacker Jordan Hicks not extending out to defend Dallas Goedert in the flat.
Excelling in coverage against Jared Goff is going to be essential if Minnesota hopes to limit an offense averaging 35.5 points per game.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.
Donatell spoke Thursday with Twin Cities media members. He said, "Our mindset is 'How can (we) be at a championship level immediately?' That's what our focus is."
This week, Donatell is preparing for a Lions offense that ranks fifth in offensive expected points added (EPA).
Krawczynski will be looking at the offensive side of the ball and how quarterback Kirk Cousins and company can bounce back after only scoring seven points on Monday night in Philly.
Krawczynski said the Vikings seemed "flat-out unprepared" for the Eagles defensive pressure and didn't get into a rhythm. He wrote:
After the game, [Head Coach Kevin] O'Connell said that __the loss fell on him __and he has to do a better job of preparing the team and putting them in a position to play to their standard. Many times when a coach plays this card, it can fall flat. Not on Monday night. O'Connell knows he has to be a lot better against the Lions, so let's see how he responds.
Lewis noted a key concern will be the pressure that Cousins will face. He said when Cousins has been pressured so far this season, he's completed 12 of his 26 attempts and has two interceptions. In his first three seasons with the Vikings, Cousins completed 49.8 percent of his passes when being under pressure.
Lewis added the Lions currently rank 10th in pressure percentage. They have also blitzed 38.1 percent of the time, which is the fourth-highest mark in the NFL this season.
Krawczynski said another concern for the Vikings will be the health of safety Harrison Smith. Smith left Monday's game in concussion protocol and didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.
If he can't go or is slowed down by it, it's a really difficult thing for the secondary to handle.
Smith is such a steadying presence on the defense, both against the run and the pass. His experience, savvy and playmaking are sorely needed.
As for key opportunities, Lewis said Sunday's game will be a crucial moment to test the Vikings new culture. He wrote:
Welcoming, inclusive environments are undoubtedly beneficial, but a positive culture can only mean so much in an industry predicated on victories. Within that context, Sunday's NFC North matchup serves as a chance for the Vikings to show what it looks like to lean on that positive environment to ultimately deliver results.
Krawczynski noted with Smith currently on the sidelines, another key opportunity will be the impact of Lewis Cine, who made his NFL regular-season debut on Monday:
If he is thrust into playing time, he will be called upon to show everyone what the Vikings liked so much when they grabbed him at the end of the first round. Cine comes from a nasty defense at Georgia. He is cerebral and an impressive physical specimen. It might be his time to shine.
Justin Jefferson Ranks 10th in Big-Play Wide Receivers Going into Week 3
Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had a monster performance in Week 1, hauling in nine receptions for a personal-best 184 yards and two touchdowns.
After being limited to just six catches for 48 yards against Philadelphia in Week 2, Jefferson will look to have a bounce-back performance against the Lions.
NFL.com's Next Gen Stats analytics team is revealing a different Position Power Ranking every week during the season. This week, they are identifying the top 10 big-play wide receivers going into Week 3.
The analytics team has devised a Next Gen Stats percentile score that is comprised of factors such as the player's speed, catching ability, yards after catch (YAC) and deep pass success. An overall and metric score were based on the receiver's first two performances this season.
Jefferson was ranked 10th on the list. He earned a receiving score of 82, a YAC score of 87, a deep score of 67 and a speed score of 52 for an overall score of 77.
The analytics team wrote:
Despite coming off of a down game in Week 2 (at least for his lofty standards), Jefferson has still been among the league's most explosive wideouts both this season and throughout his three-year career. Jefferson has accounted for 53 percent of the Vikings air yards through two games this season, the highest air-yards share in the NFL.
Since being drafted in 2020, Jefferson leads the NFL in receiving yards (3,248) and receiving yards over expected (+801). The two-time Pro Bowler makes his living in the intermediate level of the defense, gaining 1,477 yards on targets traveling between 10 and 19 air yards in his career (more than 400 more than any other player since 2020). And after leading the NFL in receiving yards when aligned wide in 2021 (1,180), Jefferson ranks second in receiving yards from the slot this season (139).
Detroit's Amon-Ra St. Brown was ranked just ahead of Jefferson at No. 9. St. Brown has 17 catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns this season.
St. Brown was awarded a receiving score of 81, a YAC score of 94, a deep score of 59 and a speed score of 66 for an overall score of 78.