Give Kirk Cousins credit: He has turned around a bad season, and a rather disappointing Minnesota Vikings career. At least for now.
Cousins was a favorite target of disgruntled fans and seemingly even his own receivers after a rough September. But it’s hard to deny that Cousins is somewhere in the MVP race after getting red hot during October.
Cousins, the NFC’s offensive player of the month, takes the Vikings to face the Dallas Cowboys in a huge game on Sunday night, which can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Even though Cousins has stepped up in a big way, there’s still one thing missing before he truly becomes an MVP candidate. He can start to take care of that on Sunday.
Kirk Cousins hasn’t played well against best opponents
The biggest knock on Cousins is that he hasn’t played well against the best teams or on prime time. Cousins’ teams are 6-13 in prime-time games when he starts. At the end of last season, his teams were 4-25 against teams with winning records.
The pattern in Minnesota has been clear. The only two quality wins the Vikings have since Cousins signed his infamous $84 million fully guaranteed contract have come over the Eagles, and there can be an argument over how impressive either win was. Last week the Vikings traveled to face the Kansas City Chiefs and lost on a last-second field goal even though Patrick Mahomes didn’t play.
Cousins’ poor record against good teams is not all his fault. Football is a team game. But it’s also fair that he hasn’t played well against the best competition. He’ll need to play very well to win at Dallas on Sunday night. The good news is he’s on a hot streak.
Cousins turned his season around
Cousins wouldn’t and shouldn’t be considered ahead of players like Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson in the MVP race. He’s probably not ahead of Christian McCaffrey either, though voters usually ignore non-quarterbacks. But Cousins is at least creeping up in the race.
Cousins has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 2,217 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. His 8.8 yards per attempt ranks second to Patrick Mahomes among all starting quarterbacks. Cousins 112 passer rating is third to only Russell Wilson and Mahomes. Cousins has thrown only one interception since Week 2. His passing grade by Pro Football Focus ranks No. 4 among all quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts. He has been quite good this season, which is a credit to him after a mostly rough September.
And it won’t matter if Cousins does a face-plant against the Cowboys. If he plays poorly and the Vikings lose, all the old criticisms about Cousins failing in prime-time games and against good teams will come up again. His contract will be mentioned a few more times.
There’s only one way to escape it. We’ll find out if Cousins is up to it on Sunday night.
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports: