Near-victories against the Packers and Browns show Jacksonville hasn’t quit on its season, but the Vikings have too much to gain from a win on Sunday to slip up here. Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook could have big days against a depleted Jaguars defense, as the Vikings continue to fight their way back into the wild-card race.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
.500 and a playoff shot in sight
A win over the 1-10 Jaguars would be the Vikings’ fifth victory in six games, returning them to the .500 mark after a 1-5 start. With the Buccaneers off on Sunday, the Vikings could move to within a game of Tampa Bay before the two teams meet in Florida next Sunday. A Vikings win could also help them pull even with the Cardinals, should Arizona lose to the Rams late Sunday afternoon.
Vikings offense nearing full strength with Thielen’s return
After a weekend as a social media sensation — courtesy of his wife Caitlin’s videos of his reactions to the Vikings’ one-point win over the Panthers — wide receiver Adam Thielen will be back on the field Sunday after positive COVID-19 tests caused him to miss the Carolina game. Thielen and Justin Jefferson could be in line for big days against a Jaguars secondary that has allowed 7.9 net yards per passing attempt (the most in the league).
Jaguars turn to Glennon again
Mike Glennon, who started for the first time this season in Jacksonville’s 27-25 loss to the Browns, will be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback for a second straight week, as the team tries to regroup after firing GM Dave Caldwell this week. Glennon, now playing for his fifth team at age 31, has faced the Vikings once in his career, in a 2014 game the Vikings won in overtime in Tampa.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings run defense vs. Jaguars RB James Robinson
Only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook have run for more yards this season than Robinson, the undrafted free agent whose forceful running style has fit well behind Jacksonville’s offensive line. Containing Robinson on early downs will make life easier for a Vikings run defense that struggled at times against the Panthers’ run game a week ago.
Vikings offensive line vs. Jaguars LB Myles Jack
Jack, who played at UCLA with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, has become one of the NFL’s better box linebackers, and getting blockers to control him will be important to the Vikings’ success on Sunday. According to Pro Football Focus, Jack has registered run stops on 11.2 percent of his snaps against the run this season, which is tied for the second-highest rate in the league.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
6 The number of times this season the Jaguars have allowed at least 400 yards in a game. Jacksonville has given up at least 350 yards in four other games.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They’re able to avoid the kinds of turnovers that nearly cost them the game last week against the Panthers, and can control Robinson well enough to force Glennon into third-and-long situations. This should be a favorable matchup for Kirk Cousins, before a stretch of games against difficult defense, and the Vikings should win if they can keep from staking the Jaguars to an early lead.
THE JAGUARS WILL WIN IF…
They start fast, set Robinson up for a big day that will allow them to control the game and get the benefit of a few mistakes from the Vikings. Jacksonville has lost three of its last four games by four points or less, but it will likely need to steal a possession or two against a Vikings offense that could be in line for a big day.
Goessling's prediction: Vikings 30, Jaguars 17
Win Probability 80 percent