Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer walks on the field before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
In his rankings of NFL coaching jobs that could open after the season, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell put the Vikings job first on his list with the pros being talent on the roster, patient ownership and the presence of veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins. The cons are limited salary-cap flexibility and Cousins’ presence. Yes, Barnwell knew what he was doing in putting Cousins in both categories. Denver is second on the list followed by Jacksonville, Carolina, Las Vegas, Chicago and Houston. Jacksonville and Las Vegas already fired their coaches, and the Jaguars are taking advantage of the NFL’s new rules by already requesting permission to talk to potential candidates.
Cousins had a 68.2 completion percentage (255-of-374) and was averaging 277.5 yards passing per game with 21 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 106.3 passer rating in the first 10 games of the season. The Vikings were 5-5. In the past five games, starting with a loss against San Francisco, the quarterback has a 62.4 completion percentage (103-of-165) and is averaging 239.2 yards passing per game with nine touchdowns, five interceptions and an 89.9 passer rating. The Vikings have gone 2-3 in that time. Cousins was sacked 14 times in the first 10 games, but has been sacked 11 times in the past five.
After going 23-9 (.719) under Mike Zimmer in their first four regular seasons at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings are 7-8 (.467) the past two years at home with one game remaining. That includes 3-5 last season and 4-3 this year. Last season marked only the fourth time since 1984 that the Vikings were below .500 at home.
How desperate are NFL teams to add depth? The Vikings brought back quarterback Kyle Sloter and signed him to the 53-man roster on Tuesday because backup Sean Mannion is on the COVID-19 reserve list and there has to be concern that the unvaccinated Kirk Cousins could end up on the same list before Sunday’s game in Green Bay. If Cousins does test positive and Mannion is still out, one would have to assume the Vikings would start third-round pick Kellen Mond and have Sloter be the back up at Lambeau Field.
The change the NFL made Tuesday in its rules that follow the CDC guidelines and reduce the quarantine time to five days from 10 days for all COVID positive players who are asymptomatic, including those who are unvaccinated, means Vikings running back Dalvin Cook should be good to go on Sunday at Green Bay. Cook, who had to sit out the Vikings’ loss to the Rams on Sunday, appears to have had mild symptoms (if that), according to SKOR North Scoopmaster Darren (Doogie) Wolfson. Cook, who has missed four games this season, rushed for 163 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 63 yards and another score in the Vikings’ 28-22 victory at Green Bay last November.
Pro Football Focus’ Eric Eager has the Vikings selecting Liberty quarterback Malik Willis with the 12th pick of the first round in his mock draft. Not great news for Mond, but right now we know very little about his abilities.
Wild fans saw why general manager Bill Guerin sent two picks (Nos. 22 and 90) to the Edmonton Oilers last July to move up to the 20th selection in order to draft goalie Jesper Wallstedt. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Wallstedt stopped all 48 shots he faced in Sweden’s 3-0 victory over Slovakia on Tuesday in the World Junior Championships in Alberta. Wallstedt also was in goal a day earlier and made 27 saves in Sweden’s 6-3 victory over Russia. Cam Talbot, the Wild’s top goalie, is in the second season of a three-year, $11 million deal and it won’t be surprising if the 19-year-old Wallstedt finds himself in goal for the Wild in the 2023-24 season.
The Wild-Blues meeting on Saturday evening at Target Field will establish a record for the coldest Winter Classic. The current record is 13 degrees at puck drop for the 2014 Classic between Toronto and Detroit at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The forecast for the Twin Cities on Saturday calls for a high of zero and low of minus-15. The 2003 Heritage Classic between Montreal and the Oilers in the Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton was played before 57,167 with temperatures getting down to minus-22 with the wind chill.
The play of Wolves’ 2019 second-round pick Jaylen Nowell could make it easier to move on from Malik Beasley. Nowell had 29 points with six rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes for the shorthanded Wolves in a 108-103 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday at Target Center. Nowell appears to be more comfortable coming off the bench than Beasley and has given the front office and coach Chris Finch plenty of reason to have confidence in him.