Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell spoke a clear truth this week that still led to an unsolved puzzle.
"As I told our team (Wednesday), the best teams in the league I believe improve during stretches like this. Three home games in a row leading into December ... and that's when you want to play your best football," O'Connell said. "You want to feel like you've kind of identified the strengths of your team and played into those, while also trying to also improve on areas."
Absolutely. And what exactly are the strengths of the 9-2 Vikings, a team so dominant in the standings that they can clinch the NFC North as soon as this weekend? That's easy. They ... um ...
Aside from "Justin Jefferson is playing like the best wide receiver on the planet and is worthy of at least being in the MVP discussion," their strengths are still pretty squishy and intangible at this point of the season (at least as I see it).
Ben Goessling and I talked about that idea on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
They've been great at making plays when they matter most, which goes hand in hand with their superb record in tight games (8-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer). They're still No. 3 in turnover differential (plus-6) and have been flagged for the sixth-fewest penalty yards.
But not beating yourself in key moments leaves a lot of time when an opponent can gain the upper hand. The Vikings have given up 18 defensive touchdowns in the middle two quarters compared to 10 in the first and last combined.
Winning is all that matters, but advanced stats don't tell an impressive story about how they got there. Football Outsiders has the Vikings at No. 22 in the NFL in DVOA, a single metric of overall strength. They're not better than No. 20 in offense, defense or special teams.
They don't run the ball particularly well (20th in yards per attempt) nor throw it all that well (22nd in yards per attempt), nor stop the run (21st in yards per attempt allowed) and they've allowed the second-most net yards per pass attempt.
This is less a critique than a query. What is the identity of this team?
Maybe it doesn't matter, or maybe the simple answer won't ever get more complicated than what we already know: Jefferson's brilliance and overall knack for making plays in the clutch.
It's been working almost every week. Might as well lean into it the rest of the way.