Chiefs-Vikings Keys & Matchups: Can Cousins Beat A Team With A Winning Record?
The Minnesota Vikings (6-2) take on the Chiefs (5-3) Sunday, bringing another tough opponent into Arrowhead Stadium where visiting teams own a three-game winning streak. Can the Chiefs defend their home turf, or will Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins pickup a victory against an opponent with a winning record?
Matchups To Watch
Vikings DE Danielle Hunter vs. Chiefs’ Tackles
Hunter is a handful and can take over a game if the offense doesn’t prepare for him. Cam Erving is outmatched in every way with Hunter’s blend of speed and power, and even Mitchell Schwartz shouldn’t be asked to go toe-to-toe with Hunter often. Kansas City will have to find a way to get double teams on Hunter to give their offensive line a chance to stop him consistently.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes & Trae Waynes
It’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings try to match up with Hill. Rhodes is their best overall corner, but lacks the speed to run with Hill deep. Waynes possesses the speed to stay with Hill, but lacks the technique to cover him on anything more than a go route. With Sammy Watkins back at full strength, he might draw Rhodes more than Hill does. That allows the Vikings to use Waynes to cover Hill deep while giving him help on the underneath routes.
Chiefs’ Linebackers vs. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
If the Vikings take anything from how the Packers’ offense attacked the Chiefs, it should be the way the linebackers struggled to cover running back Aaron Jones in the passing game. It’s safe to assume that Cook will be used as a receiver a few times this game, so the Chiefs’ linebackers need to b e better in coverage. They also have the tough task of trying to keep Cook bottled up in the run game.
Chiefs’ Defensive Line vs. Vikings’ Offensive Line
Kansas City has been getting some incredible pressure the last couple of weeks despite missing some of their best players on the defensive line. With defensive lineman Chris Jones likely suiting up this week, the Chiefs have a player who can dominate the interior offensive lineman and get constant push up the middle to go along with the pressure from the edge that has emerged the last few weeks.
Chiefs’ Running Backs vs. Vikings’ Linebackers
Linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are both liabilities in coverage. The Chiefs need to isolate these two linebackers in coverage on the running backs and target that matchup often. If successful, it could eliminate some of the blitz packages for the Vikings so they can provide some support to Barr and Kendricks.
Keys To Victory
Find The Home Field Advantage
The Chiefs have lost 3 games in a row at Arrowhead this season, which has traditionally been an extremely tough place to play. With or without Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City has to find a way to tap into their home crowd’s energy and take back the advantage from playing on their home field.
Don’t Let Cook Get Going
The Vikings offense flows through Cook and rightfully so. Cook leads the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. His speed, power and vision make him a threat to break off a big gain every time he touches the ball. It’s vitally important Kansas City sells out to contain Cook. The Chiefs must maintain gap integrity, take good pursuit angles and make sure-handed tackles if they have any hopes to bottle up the Minnesota running game.
Put The Game On Cousins’ Shoulders
Cousins is 5-26 in his career against teams with a winning record and has yet to record a game-winning drive as a member of the Vikings. Minnesota’s key to success has been to rely on the run game and defense to carry the team, allowing Cousins to play the role of game manager. But the Vikings often failed when opponents force Cousins to take a lead role. If the Chiefs can slow down the run game and force Cousins to win the game with his arm, the odds are he will come up short.
Keep Up The Defensive Intensity
Kansas City has found a new gear on defense over the last two weeks, racking up 14 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and a touchdown. It’s going to take this type of high-pressure defensive output to give the Chiefs a chance to win with Mahomes likely out again this week.
Use The Vikings’ Aggressiveness Against Them
The Minnesota defense flows hard downhill to attack the run game and their secondary bites hard on the first move a receiver makes. The Chiefs have to take advantage of this by hitting play-action passes behind the linebackers, and incorporating double moves into the offense to beat the over-aggressive secondary.