The Vikings Are Playing with Fire Regarding Their QB1

Peter King Lists the Vikings as a Borderline Playoff Team in Post-Draft 2023 Power Rankings
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills during second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are sitting at 12-3, have clinched the NFC North, and can sail smoothly into the playoff in a couple weeks. However, even with all this success, the Vikings are playing with fire when it comes to their QB1, Kirk Cousins.

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”1211967″ player=”26281″ title=”AmonRa%20St.%20Brown's%20development%20as%20a%20star%20wide%20receiver” duration=”58″ description=”Dave Birkett from the Detroit Free Press gives an insiders look at the NFL’s feel good story of the year.” uploaddate=”2022-12-23″ thumbnailurl=”” contentUrl=”″ width=”16″ height=”9″]

Following Week 16, Cousins has now been hit 125 times this season. Since at least 2000, no other QB has taken that much punishment in the first 15 games of a season. He’s also been sacked 44 times, which is already a career high for a single season.

Despite being hit so many times, Cousins’ productivity remains on par with the rest of his career. On Sunday, he surpassed both 4000 yards and 25 passing TDs for the third straight season. He’s now had eight consecutive seasons of 25+ passing TDs, making him just the fifth QB to have a streak last that long. He’s now just 104 passing yards from surpassing the 4221 mark he set in 2021.

The Vikings QB1 has also been one of the clutchest players in the league. He now has tied the NFL record for most game-winning drives with 8. The Vikings are 11-0 in one-possession games largely due to his strong play down the stretch of games.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Per Stathead, Cousins leads the NFL in 4th quarter passing yards (1283) and passing TDs (12) this season. He and Tom Brady are the only QBs with 160+ 4th quarter pass attempts to throw 3 or fewer interceptions as well.

Cousins has been every bit as good as any QB not named Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes this year, but the Vikings need to do a much better job of keeping their QB on his feet. Career highs in QB hits and sacks are not something you want to see for a player in his age-34 season.

Even for a guy that has been an ironman for his entire career, you never want to see hits piling up like this. Brett Favre seemed invincible for a long time too, but he eventually met his match.

Week 16 NFL Picks
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrate the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Since Week 10 against the Bills, Cousins has been sacked 28 times. That’s an average of 4 sacks per game. Only once has he not been taken down multiple times. Expand that rate to a 17-game season, and that’s a pace for 68 sacks in a season. Only three times has a QB been sacked that much in a season in NFL history (David Carr twice, Randall Cunningham), and it’s never happened to a QB over the age of the 30.

Only five players have been sacked 50+ times in a season at 34 or older, and only once has it happened for a team that made the playoffs (Dieter Brock, 1985 Rams). The Vikings have found success with Cousins throughout the 2022 season, but these hits piling up can’t be good for a QB that is about to take on a $36.25 million cap hit for his age-35 season in 2023. Minnesota needs to clean things up in order to preserve the long-term health of their QB.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.