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Sunday Night Football Takeaways

Jordan Love is the real deal

If you’re the general manager for the Vikings, it shouldn’t be too difficult of a decision to see that Kirk Cousins should be the starter for 2024. The quarterback play for the Vikings is not great. It would be a waste to miss the window in which you have Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and TJ Hockenson. The Packers, however, look great and they are a young team.

Quarterbacks (against Packers: Favorable) | (against Vikings: Unfavorable):

Jordan Love played out of his mind, especially given the matchup that hasn’t been particularly favorable to quarterbacks. A few plays that Love made that stood out to me were a pass in which he threaded the needle to Bo Melton, a deep 33 yard touchdown pass to Jayden Reed, throwing while backpedaling and finding Melton for his first career receiving touchdown, and capping off another drive with a hard-fought rushing touchdown on the goal line. Love also took some deep shots in this game, barely missing a few. He overthrew a wide open Malik Heath as he was getting chased out of the pocket, causing him to hurry the throw. Another way in which he didn’t connect with Doubs that was just off his fingertips. If you’re one for comparisons, Aaron Rodgers, who also sat for his first few seasons, had a 63 percent completion percentage, passed for 4038 yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and rushed for four touchdowns. Through 16 games, Love has completed about 63 percent of his passes for 3843 yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and four rushing touchdowns.

Jaren Hall didn’t look great. Going into halftime, Hall completed 50% of his passes, had an interception that wasn’t entirely his fault, lost a fumble, and threw for only 67 yards. Hall’s interception was on a crossing play in which there was confusion: Either the backup tight end, Johnny Mundt stopped late on the route, thinking he was sitting in a good spot, or the ball was simply thrown behind him, causing Mundt to reach awkwardly for the ball, glancing off his hands, and popping up for the interception. His first pass to his own team was to Jefferson on a deep 20 yard option route three minutes into the second quarter. Watching the game, it seemed as if Hall wasn’t going to start the second half. Sure enough, Nick Mullens took over in the second half. Mullens did air it out more almost immediately and connected with Justin Jefferson. Kevin O’Connell knew that Mullens would be more aggressive, which is what the Vikings needed given they were down multiple scores going into the second half. Sadly, Mullens still didn’t give the Vikings the firepower they needed.

Running Backs (against Packers: Neutral) | (against Vikings: Neutral):

Aaron Jones left for the medical tent for a brief moment but quickly came back into the game. Jones found a lot of lanes in this game, rushing for over 100 yards in back-to-back games. Love was airing the ball out frequently but only targeted Jones once. He looked great. AJ Dillon was dealing with a stinger injury midway through the second half, allowing Jones and Patrick Taylor to get more carries to close out the game.

Ty Chandler worked as the lead back, but given that the offense couldn’t get anything going in the first half and they were down multiple scores, the run game got written out of the script for the Vikings. Alexander Mattison clearly worked as the backup running back. Neither showed flashes in their limited opportunities.

Wide Receivers (against Packers: Favorable) | (against Vikings: Favorable):

Since 1997, only Randy Moss, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Chase Claypool have had more receiving and rushing touchdowns in their rookie seasons than Jayden Reed. Pretty good company to be in. After the fumble by Hall, Love found Reed on a slant that he navigated his way down to the end zone, showing off extra effort by reaching the ball over the goal line. Reed showed off his ability to hang onto the ball by waving for a fair catch kind of late, taking a hit, and still holding onto it. Unfortunately, Reed missed the second half with a chest injury, the same injury that has been lingering since Week 12. But going forward, Reed is going to be a star. Bo Melton was Love’s second favorite receiver. Love found Melton on multiple deep plays. This was likely a product of multiple starters ahead of him going down, but it was nice to see flashes. He did have a late 37 yard catch to boost his numbers a bit once backup quarterback Sean Clifford came in to relieve Love of his duties after a great day's work. On fourth down, Love and Melton barely missed a connection on a wide-open deep pass. I’m never a fan of throwing deep when you need just a yard, but I understand the decision. Romeo Doubs was barely utilized and failed to bring in a deep ball that just glanced off his fingertips. Samori Toure filled in for Jayden Reed, who was returning punts in this game but left with an injury, botched the punt, allowing the Vikings to have a short field and Mullens to find Johnny Mundt for the touchdown.

With how bad the quarterback play was in the first half, it’s understandable that the Vikings wide receivers didn’t do much. Justin Jefferson didn’t catch his first ball until the second quarter. Jordan Addison was targeted for a few sideline catches, connecting on just a few of them once Mullens came in. A disappointing day if you were counting on either of them this week. There are bright futures ahead for both, but you’ve got to hope that they bring in a competent quarterback. After a huge week for K.J. Osborn, he wasn’t even targeted in this game.

Tight Ends (against Packers: Neutral) | (against Vikings: Unfavorable):

I’m not sure the seventh-year breakout is going to happen, but Johnny Mundt seemed like the next man up in TJ Hockenson’s absence. He found the end zone. I’ve already been talking about Mundt for too long.

Since Week 13, Tucker Kraft has had 6 targets in four of their last five games. He’s shown flashes, including catching everything thrown his way and having a strong stiff arm. However, so has Luke Musgrave, who has been inactive for the past month with a kidney injury. Both have shown promise, but I’m not sure if there is a clear read on which tight end will be the primary tight end going into 2024. Perhaps the playoffs will make that issue more clear.

—Colt Williams

Williams is working towards a degree in economics and statistics at Sonoma State. A United States Air Force veteran, he’s been playing fantasy football since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @_ColtWilliams

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