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Justin Jefferson is the Vikings’ best offensive player

When healthy, Dalvin Cook is still one of the best running backs in the game. Kirk Cousins has shown he can look like a top-tier NFL quarterback … at times. Adam Thielen is as consistent as they come in the red zone. But when the Vikings offense is really cooking, Jefferson is right in the middle of it. Through five weeks, the former first-round pick ranks sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (542) and fourth in receptions (41). He owns a 40.7% share of the Vikings air yards, the sixth-highest clip in the league. In all three of Minnesota’s wins, Jefferson has recorded 7+ catches and 80+ receiving yards. He is still riding a streak of seven straight home contests with triple-digit receiving yards and/or a score.

Offense goes in sleep mode after halftime

One of the Vikings’ problems, and perhaps biggest reason why they rank in the middle of the pack of the NFL in scoring, has been their tendency to get conservative on offense after the break. During Minnesota’s three-game homestand in Weeks 3-5, the Vikings found the end zone a combined five times. All five occurred in the opening two quarters. Minnesota has gone for it on fourth down on only five occasions through six games, which ranks 25th in the league. The Vikings have converted 3 of 5 attempts. In today’s game of football, teams can’t be afraid to try to advance on fourth-and-short and keep drives going, no matter the time of game.

Defensive line is a strength once again

One of the most mind-boggling statistics from the Vikings’ 2020 campaign was the fact that Yannick Ngakoue was the team’s leader in sacks despite playing in just six contests. It’s a much different story in 2021. A healthy Danielle Hunter has opposing quarterbacks running for their lives. Hunter has tallied six sacks in six games -- already one more than Ngakoue last season – and has totaled 13 quarterback hurries. (For reference, his career high in QB hurries is 20, set in 2018 … in 16 games.) Another factor to the improved defensive line, surprisingly, is veteran Everson Griffen. When he signed with the Vikings in late August, the expectations were low. Griffen was looked at as more of a depth piece and a vocal leader on defense. But the 33-year-old has tallied four sacks in five contests and even earned starting nods in Week 5 against Detroit and Week 6 against Carolina.

Patrick Peterson a band-aid for struggles in Vikings secondary

Signed to a one-year deal before the season, the three-time All-Pro cornerback has gotten better and better each game with the Vikings. Frustratingly, he’s now out for at least three games after injuring his hamstring in the final moments of regulation versus the Panthers. Peterson surrendered 10 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets over the first three games, but since then, quarterbacks have thrown for 113 yards on 11-of-23 passing in Peterson’s coverage. The Vikings haven’t had much success on the other side of the field. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland has been picked on all season. He started the team’s first five games and coughed up 24 receptions for 316 yards and four scores on 32 targets -- good for a 145.3 passer rating. (Reminder: A perfect passer rating is 158.3). Breeland did, however, fare much better in Week 6, not allowing a catch on six targets and intercepting Sam Darnold’s first pass. His latest start dropped his passer rating allowed when targeted to 113.5. With P2 on injured reserve, out until at least Week 11, second-year corner Cam Dantzler could play a larger role. Dantzler has played just 113 of the team’s 403 defensive snaps so far this season.

Greg Joseph has caused a whirlwind of emotions

Vikings fans are used to kicking gaffes, which Joseph has provided more than once this season (see: Week 2 against Arizona and Week 6 against Carolina). But head coach Mike Zimmer has retained faith in his kicker … and it has sort of paid off. Joseph has attempted the most field goals in the league through six weeks (17) and has converted the second most (13). He sailed the game-winner through the uprights against Detroit in Week 5, his first of two consecutive games with five field-goal attempts. Of course, the misses hurt dearly. Joseph choked a 37-yard go-ahead try as time expired against the Cardinals -- a missed extra point earlier in the contest lingered all game. He also missed the potential clincher from 47 yards out against the Panthers prior to overtime, though Zimmer said he didn’t fault his kicker because of adverse winds. Emotional is the word to summarize Joseph’s performance at the bye week. The best part is that he has proven his reliability from deep — he leads the league with five makes from 50+ yards (on six kicks).

Putting teams away must become a priority

Five of the Vikings’ six games have been decided by one possession. Three of the five have resulted in losses. Minnesota has found itself on the winning end of the most recent two. However you look at the team’s late-game antics, the inability to put opponents away is an issue. Zimmer and Cousins have praised the resilience of the group in postgame press conferences — the ability to fight and scratch and find ways to win despite blowing leads or committing careless mistakes. They’ve also mentioned the need to play cleaner games and keep their foot on opponents’ necks when they the chance.