If you’re not excited to watch the Minnesota Vikings this season, then you’re not a football fan. Coming off a stellar season last year, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks to point this team in the right direction.
Now, I know exactly what you all are thinking: “Oh the Vikings are going to the bowl. We can’t be stopped. Who is going to beat us? We got Dalvin back.”
I get it. We are an enthusiastic fan group who always hopes and expects the best. However, we always seem to get our hearts ripped right out of our chests. We saw a prime example of this last season. Our defense got exposed; the offense was nonexistent after the first drive; and they got blown out at Lincoln Financial Field.
While there is a tremendous upside for this “supposedly better than last year” Minnesota Vikings, you’re going to want to dial it down a bit.
Minnesota sports, especially the Vikings in particular, have the tendency to underachieve. Take the 2016 season for example. Fresh off a trade for former first overall selection Sam Bradford, the Vikings were set up for success following the unexpected injury of Teddy Bridgewater. They started off hot, jumping to a 5-0 record. However, they lost eight of their final 11 games, finishing the season at 8-8.
Off topic, but I’m going to point this out. The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the season 47-35 and had to win the last game of the season to claim the eighth seed in the West. After flirting with the three and four seeds the majority of the season, the eighth seed landed them a 4-1 first round loss to the Houston Rockets, the first playoff berth clinched by the Timberwolves since 2004, with practically nothing to show for it. A team with Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague certainly should have gone farther. The Minnesota Wild have made the playoffs every year for the last six seasons. The only problem is they haven’t surpassed the second round in any of those seasons. Talk about Minnesota sports underachieving. I’m not even going to mention the Minnesota Twins, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2002.
But back to the Vikings. I think they’re going to have a worse record than last season. You might be thinking I’m nuts, but I’ll back it up.
First off, they aren’t winning 13 games this year. It’s very hard to win 13 games in the National Football League. A big part of this is because of their incredibly difficult schedule. Road games against New England, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Green Bay and Seattle suggest the Vikings aren’t going to have the same success they had last season. Even games at Chicago and Detroit have proven difficult for Minnesota in the past. Since 2010, the Vikings have lost five of eight games at Detroit and six of eight at Chicago. Not to mention the two games they won in Chicago were decided by only three points each. The Vikings also have a couple tough games at home. They welcome Jimmy Garoppolo into the building week one, who is undefeated as a San Francisco 49er. Minnesota also plays fellow non-divisional rival, the New Orleans Saints. We all saw what happened last year against them. It was great, but incredibly lucky too. The Vikings could have (and arguably should have) lost that game. All I’m saying is the schedule is far from a cake walk and that it’s going to be hard to win games, especially come playoff time in a stacked NFC.
Yes, I know the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins. Frankly, I love the signing of Cousins. It’s risky that they gave him an $84 million, fully guaranteed deal. However, besides Fran Tarkenton, Brett Favre and maybe Daunte Culpepper, Cousins is the best quarterback to ever play in a Vikings uniform. The former Pro Bowler has thrown for over 4,000 yards in his last three seasons, and with star receivers like Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, Cousins has many weapons to work with. However, he’s still new to the offense. He might need a year to get in the swing of things with this offense. Chemistry doesn’t develop overnight. He’ll get a groove down, but it might not be as soon as people think.
I also know the Vikings are getting Dalvin Cook back. He showed flashes of greatness before a torn ACL abruptly ended his rookie season. There’s a good chance he could have been a Pro Bowl running back if he stayed healthy. I’m excited to see what he can do this year, and I think he’s a significant addition to the team. If he can stay healthy, Cook will be a key component in the offense.
The Vikings defense is top three in the league, simple as that. However, it’s important to note that not one Pro Bowler on the defense got injured last season. I say this because it’s incredibly rare that no defensive stars get injured at some point in the season. It’s real life; people get hurt. Think about if they lost Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith. That puts a huge hole in the secondary. Or imagine if Everson Griffen or Danielle Hunter suffered an injury. There goes the pass rush. It’s just something to think about because things might not be so perfect this year. Also, even when they are completely healthy, we saw the defense get picked apart by a backup quarterback in last year’s NFC Championship Game.
You can call me a Negative Nancy, pessimist, glass half empty kind of guy, whatever. I’m just trying to set realistic expectations to avoid getting my hopes up to only to be let down. Who knows, maybe the Vikings will shock the world and go 15-1? A throwback to the 1998 season, which I’m not going to go into detail about because we all know what happened.