The Vikings Need Big Games from Three Rookies in Order to Capture a Week 11 Victory

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
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The Minnesota Vikings are set to face off with the Denver Broncos on the bright stage of Sunday Night Football tonight.

Ahead of the game, the Vikings are dealing with a number of injuries that will once again impact their starting lineup. With the game just hours away, here is a look at three rookies who need to have big games in order for Minnesota to capture a win.

LB Ivan Pace

Three Rookies
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Sean Tucker (44) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota heads into Week 11 without Jordan Hicks, who they placed on IR earlier in the week. The linebacker suffered a lower leg contusion last weekend, and he will miss at least the next four games for the Vikings.

This is a huge loss for the Vikings seeing as Hicks had been the main man in the middle of their defense all year. He was putting together a stellar season, but now, Minnesota will need someone else to step up and match his production.

The team did bring back Anthony Barr, and he was elevated from the practice squad for this game. However, it remains to be seen how much is left in the 31-year-old legs of the veteran. With that in mind, it is time for Ivan Pace to show what he can do in the Vikings defense.

The rookie has been a strong presence in the Vikings pass-rush during his opportunities, but he hasn’t been the same run-stopper as Hicks this season. This will need to improve against a Broncos offense that is averaging 140 rushing yards per game during their winning streak.

CB Mekhi Blackmon

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (5) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (not pictured) in front of wide receiver Chris Olave (12) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more surprising outcomes of this season for the Vikings has been the play of their secondary. However, they will be without one of their starters on Sunday as Akayleb Evans was ruled out for this weekend’s game because of a calf injury. The cornerback left during Week 10’s win over the Saints.

Evans has proven himself to be a physical, hard-hitting cornerback this season, forcing three fumbles during Minnesota’s first 10 games. Without him, though, the Vikings will need to rely on Mekhi Blackmon to fill that role.

The rookie has made the most of his limited opportunities this season, and his 5 pass breakups (per PFF) rank among the top 15 cornerbacks in the league despite playing fewer than half as many snaps as most of the players on that list. Minnesota needs that production to come through again in a game against some very talented receivers like Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.

WR Jordan Addison

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In the absence of Justin Jefferson, the Vikings have done a great job of getting other receivers involved in the passing game. Once again, Jefferson has been ruled out for Sunday’s game because of his lingering hamstring injury, so he will be eyeing a return against the Chicago Bears in Week 12.

Seeing as Jefferson won’t be on the field again, Jordan Addison will need to be a key part of the Vikings offense against a tough Broncos secondary. Players like Ja’Quan McMillian have really stepped up over the past few weeks to make things tough on opposing receivers.

Addison burst onto the scene early in the year by recording seven receiving TDs through the first eight weeks of the season. However, the rookie has now gone back-to-back games without a score. Minnesota will likely need their newest star receiver to break off a couple big plays to win this weekend.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.