What to Expect from Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings Offense in Week 16

Matthew StensrudContributor IIIDecember 20, 2013

Matt Cassel will lead the Vikings into Cincinnati for Week 16.
Matt Cassel will lead the Vikings into Cincinnati for Week 16.Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

As the Minnesota Vikings prepare for their final road game of the year against the Cincinnati Bengals, few could have predicted the volatility of this 2013 season.

After going week to week literally unsure who would start at quarterback, Matt Cassel will have the job both this upcoming game and in the final contest at home against the Detroit Lions.

Cassel has played well for the Vikings over the last three-game stretch since replacing Christian Ponder in Week 13 against the Chicago Bears. The team has gone 2-1 during that time and has some unlikely momentum with the veteran quarterback under center.

Fans cheering for Minnesota to lose to improve its draft position in 2014 may not be as thrilled with Cassel's success. The win against the Philadelphia Eagles last week dropped the Vikings from the third slot in the draft—had they lost—to the eighth slot.

But those same fans saw history at the Metrodome, as the Cassel-led Vikings scored the most points in franchise history at the venue. 

It was also the most points scored home or away since the magical (yet tragic) 1998 season.

With all of that said, how will this translate for the Vikings, who head into Cincinnati with a 0-6-1 record on the road?

Although this season has been difficult to predict each week, we should expect a marked improvement from the Vikings on the road and a relatively competitive matchup against the Bengals.

However, the task at hand will still be a very tall order. Cincinnati ranks sixth in total defense and seventh in fewest passing yards allowed. The team is also 6-0 at home and in a heated playoff race to win its division.

Here's how Cassel's passing statistics will stack up against the Bengals defense. 

2013 Season Statistics
Matt Cassel712019461.91,5047.89590.7

Although Cassel threw for 382 yards last week, it was against an Eagles team that ranks 31st in the league against the pass. So while it was impressive in its own right, let's make sure to stay grounded on the competition.

In addition to a stout overall defense, Cincinnati also ranks 12th in the NFL in interceptions with 14, a statistic Cassel will try to avoid.

The last time he threw more than one pick in a game this season was against the Carolina Panthers, another top defensive squad that ranks sixth in interceptions with 17 and fifth in fewest passing yards allowed.

A key matchup for Cassel and the Vikings will be Greg Jennings against cornerback Adam Jones, with other cornerbacks Leon Hall and Terence Newman out for the season with a torn Achilles and Terence Newman questionable with a knee injury.

Jennings certainly got in on the fun against Philadelphia, recording 11 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown. The former Green Bay Packer used to have Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, but this marked the most catches in one game for his career.

Looking back over the season, it's easy to wonder what could have been for the Vikings. Jennings elaborated further on the team's potential record with Cassel at the helm, via Bob Sansevere of the Pioneer Press

Yeah, you wonder, but we have to move on. I remember mentioning something like that to Matt. He said: 'We have three games. Let's make the best of it.' I love it because that's his mind-set. He's not worried about what could have, should have -- what possibly could have been. He stays in the now. As a player, that's how we have to operate. We have to stay in the now and take advantage of what is right in front of us.

Cassell and Jennings will march into Cincinnati to face the next team in front of them. Although the season is lost from a playoff perspective, this quarterback-receiver combination may be practicing for continued chemistry next season.

Even if the Vikings select a quarterback in next year's draft, which they should, Cassel would be an asset on the roster as either the early starter or veteran mentor.

And he will try to showcase his talent for that potential scenario against the Bengals on Sunday.


All statistics courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted.

Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+