I asked all of you on Twitter to come up with "measured hot takes" with "logic and thought" behind them — and allow me to either agree or disagree. Here's the latest installment:
This one hurts me to my core, since I've been complaining (loudly) about the Vikings' offensive line for at least five seasons. While Rick Spielman has committed more draft resources to the line in recent years — one pick in the top three rounds of the last four drafts — the results can only politely be described as mixed.
It's probably no surprise that I'm going to fundamentally disagree with most of the premise of Sam's take, though I understand the place that it is coming from: A really good quarterback that can extend plays can make up for an average-to-shaky offensive line. I think that's true to a degree.
But if we trust Pro Football Focus grades, we can see two problems: The Vikings' offensive line was bad in 2020 (and has been for years). In terms of run blocking, the line is adequate, grading out at No. 18 among 32 teams this season. Pass blocking? The Vikings graded No. 29. And Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, while possessing several strengths, is not great at improvising or extending plays a la Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers.
That the Vikings were still good enough to muster a successful offense — their receivers were graded No. 1 overall, and their running backs No. 2 — should not let the line off the hook. Imagine how good they would be if that area ever became consistently above-average?
I say that because, to the second part of the take, having a good offensive line sure seems like it matters. It shows up when you need to execute — when a team knows you are going to pass, knows you are going to run, when you absolutely need to score.
And it shows up in PFF's offensive line grades. Out of the 14 teams that made the playoffs this season, 11 had pass blocking grades that ranked at least in the top 14 in the NFL. The three that were below that mark — Seattle (19), Chicago (25) and Tennessee (28) — all lost in the wild card round this past weekend and scored an average of just 14 points in those losses. The top seeds in each conference, Green Bay and Kansas City, rate No. 2 and No. 7, respectively, in pass blocking.
Run blocking? Same story, and perhaps even more stark. Only one team, Pittsburgh, made the playoffs with a run blocking grade outside of the top half of the league. And the Steelers were bounced from the playoffs Sunday.
That means all eight remaining teams vying for the Super Bowl, at least in terms of PFF grades, were at least in the top half of the league in pass blocking and run blocking.
That's a pretty strong correlation with success — or, conversely in the case of the Vikings, failure. Until they see results from their attempts to improve the offensive line, they aren't likely to be consistent serious contenders.