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Navigating the Labyrinth of Grades: A Pro Football Focus Analysis of the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 1 Performance vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 1 is done. 2 NFC North teams start off the 2023 NFL season with a win, but alas not the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-17.

No, the season is far from over I remind the cynical Vikings fans out there. Just one game in the rearview mirror. Now what though?

Not much time for the Vikings to even look in the rearview mirror as they play again on Thursday Night Football (a mere 43 hours away) in a familiar matchup. In back to back years, the Vikings have had a week 2 matchup on primetime vs the Philadelphia Eagles, a blowout win for the Eagles last year.

While the Vikings don’t want to go over 2022 Eagles tape or Sunday’s Bucs tape, they have to and as previously touched on, in limited time. Instead of crunching film, I thought we would look at some data from Pro Football Focus (PFF) to see how Vikings players were graded in week 1.

Let’s start by looking how the offense graded. Brian O’Neill was the highest graded Vikings offensive player with an overall grade of 86.7, 81.5 for pass blocking, and 89.3 for run blocking. 2nd best was Wide receiver Justin Jefferson with a 79.1 overall grade, 77.6 in the passing game, and 60.9 in run blocking. The lowest graded on offense for the Vikings was fullback C.J. Ham with a grade of 44.3 overall, 42.3 in the passing game, 63 in pass blocking, and 50.2 in run blocking. 2nd worst was the much maligned 2nd year guard Ed Ingram who was graded at an overall grade of 46.2, 40.3 for pass blocking, 57.4 for run blocking.

You’re probably wondering how QB1 did. Kirk Cousins finished with an overall grade of 66.0, 66.1 in the passing game, 56.5 in the running game.

Now that you’ve got an idea on how the offense was graded, let’s look over see how things fared on the defensive side of the ball. Safety Cam Bynum graded the highest at 82.5 overall. He was graded 75.4 in run defense, 85.5 in tackles, 60 in pass rush, and 76.3 in defensive coverage against receivers. 2nd highest graded was the undrafted rookie linebacker Ivan Pace Jr who was graded at 75.0 overall, 61.3 in run defense, 80.8 in tackling, 90 in pass rush, and 76.3 in coverage against receivers. The worst? That award goes to edge rusher Pat Jones II with an abysmal overall grade of 28.8 overall, 28.1 in run defense, 19.5 in tackling, 59.8 in pass rush, and 47.3 in coverage. 2nd worst is barely within 10 points of Jones and that belongs to edge rusher Benton Whitley who only played the one snap, but it was not a good one. PFF graded his overall at 38.4, 25.0 in tackling, and 39.8 in pass rushing.

Special teams? If you’re that curious, I’ll divulge. Quite the game for long snapper Andrew DePaolo who graded in at 81.3, the highest on special teams. The worst was rookie safety Jay Ward. In his 15 special teams snaps, he graded at 31.2. Kicker Greg Joseph was graded at 60.0 overall, 60 on kickoff, and 63 on field goal grade. Punter Ryan Wright graded in at 60.4 overall and 64.4 was his punting grade.

Overall, the Vikings graded at 70.8 overall (17th), 68.9 was the offensive grade, and 66.7 was the overall defensive grade, and special teams was 65.3. More importantly, they are 0-1 in the 2023 season.

Bring on the Eagles.

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