Coming off a 5-10-1 season (yes, Donovan, an NFL game can end in a tie), the Minnesota Vikings feel they have a lot to prove. They showed they mean business with wins in all 4 meaningless preseason games. That was my tongue being firmly planted in cheek. That being said I have been pleasantly surprised by how good the offense has looked without Adrian Peterson, who wisely chooses to avoid contact in these exhibition games. However, the offense wasn’t the problem last year and it most likely won’t be this year. Any and all improvement for the Purple’s record will depend on whether new head coach and defensive mind Mike Zimmer can straighten out a historically bad Viking defense, specifically the secondary.
The Vikings finished near the bottom in total defense and pass defense. Their rush defense was only moderately bad. Many of the problems, in my mind, were schematic so the Zimmer change is welcomed by this writer. However, poor personnel at the LB, Safety (outside of Harrison Ford…er Smith) and CB continue to plague a team that faces 3 elite QBs in its division. Bringing in Captain Munnerlyn as a veteran CB with some play-making ability is huge and surely helps. But they are still stuck with Josh Robinson as the 3rd corner in a team expected to play a ton of nickel defense. The safety opposite of Smith is still unknown. Apparently no one really wants the spot.
But enough of the negatives. Let’s just get to actual games so I can stop hearing about games that don’t matter, Johnny Football being a back-up, and Michael Sam’s showering habits. Here is my game-by-game preview of the Minnesota Vikings:
Week 1 at St. Louis – The Vikings secondary was handed a gift when Sam Bradford went down with a torn ACL. Obviously feel bad for Bradford, but the Vikings defense should see some relief with his absence. Vikings win on the road in a close, low-scoring game.
Week 2 vs New England – The Vikings are known for cowering in primetime, nationally-televised games. This won’t be like 2002′s debacle vs the Seahawks that led to this outstanding quote from Mike Patrick, “The Seahawks won the coin toss and elected to kick the living bejeezus out of the Vikings” or the night Tom Brady torched the Metrodome turf in a 31-7 beatdown of the Purple. I just wanted to bring up those horrible performance because they bring back some hilarious commentary. It won’t be that bad this time, but I still see “The Fighting Brady’s” winning.
Week 3 at New Orleans – I hate this game, not only because of the shock and awe STILL lingering from 2009, but because Drew Brees is still the QB for the Saints. Check out his #s in 3 games vs the here. Vikings lose, and probably give up 350 yds passing for the 2nd straight week.
Week 4 vs Atlanta – The Falcons weren’t nearly as bad as their 4-12 record indicated in 2013. They were coming off a 13-3 mark and #1 seed in the NFC in 2012. I expect them to be somewhere in the middle. They have outstanding receivers, but no running game. I bet the Vikings pass defense is looking forward to a downgrade in opposing QB play, but it won’t be much. I give the Vikings the win here since it’s at home. Revenge for ’98! (or not).
Week 5 at Green Bay – The never-ending parade of HoF QBs continues. The Purple lose in GB almost as often as they do in Chicago. I give the Packers the edge. They are one of the 3 best teams in the NFC and the Vikings just can’t keep up on defense. It’ll be close though, as it tends to be in this rivalry.
Week 6 vs Detroit – Calvin Johnson may score 2 TDs and get 200 yds receiving, but it’s still the Lions of old. The only difference is they lose less often because of great talent. But they still find ways to lose in grandiose fashion even off the field. Vikings win in a shootout because neither defense cares to stop anyone, unless it’s Suh cheap-shotting someone.
Week 7 at Buffalo – This is the first game that on paper, the Vikings should be favored. However, it’s mid-October in Buffalo and as Dennis Green once said the “Calcutta Clipper” can swing down and up and out. It’s a stout Bills defense. If the Vikings want to be taken seriously after that brutal schedule to start, they have to win this. So naturally I’m taking Buffalo in a barn-burner.
Week 8 at Tampa – Another game, eerily similar to the Buffalo game. Vikings probably won’t be favored here, but have probably enough talent to win. Since I picked them to lose in Buffalo, I’ll take the Purple to win here. I think they split these two games.
Week 9 vs Washington – The Vikings won 34-27 last year. RGIII has new weapon Desean Jackson to throw to. However, the Vikings are tough to beat at home and Griffin isn’t quite elite enough to pick apart a porous secondary. Vikings win in another high-scoring affair.
Week 10 BYE – I have the Vikings at 5-4 entering their bye week. I love the week 10 bye, especially if Minnesota is above .500. Even at 4-5 they have a decent shot at 8-8 or better. Again, they need to be 2-3 or better after 5 games to consider playoffs.
Week 11 at Chicago – The Vikings never win at Soldier Field. It used to be because the team was built for speed on that Metrodome turf and the long grass at Soldier Field threw them off. I think it’s just because Chicago historically has a good team. This year is no different and the Vikings will find another way to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in Chicago as they did in 2013. Bears win thanks to Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler.
Week 12 vs Green Bay – This is a tricky game. Even in down years the Vikings can beat the Pack at home. This game is the week before Thanksgiving and cold will be barreling down on TCF Bank Stadium. I take the Vikings in an upset. I won’t predict snow, nor a 65-degree Nov day. But I’m feeling a gut-wrenching loss here, maybe a Walsh missed FG at the horn. Pack wins.
Week 13 vs Carolina – The Panthers came to Metrodome last season and hung a 35-10 loss on the Vikings. It was embarrassing on many counts. Maybe the most embarrassing, and what ultimately cost him his job, was Leslie Frazier’s handling of it. He seemed to pin the loss on Matt Cassel, who only played 2 games, because the following week Frazier started Josh Freeman vs the Giants. We won’t revisit that debacle. But I do think the loss of Steve Smith hurts Carolina and Cam Newton. I believe the Vikings pull this out in a slugfest.
Week 14 vs New York Jets – J-E-T-S and the Rex Ryan circus comes to “The Bank” and this may be the easiest game on the schedule, which doesn’t have an easy game on it. the Jets are terrible even in the MOST meaningless of preseason games. The Vikings win by 10+.
Week 15 at Detroit – Another tricky division game. This could go two ways: The Lions have become irrelevant and dysfunctional but still give Minnesota a close game OR the Vikings have become irrelevant and dysfunctional and the Lions rout the Purple. I say close game, Minnesota wins.
Week 16 at Miami – This feels like a let-down game, regardless how the season goes to this point. Something tells me the hot Miami sun, Cuban food, and clubs catch up to the Vikings here and Miami wins. As I did before, I may be wrong, but I think the Vikings win 2 of 3 vs NYJ, DET, & MIA.
Week 17 vs Chicago – I don’t have any stats to back this up, but it seems like when the Vikings have NEEDED to win a week 17 game to make the playoffs, they’ve done it; Recently versus the Giants (2008) and Packers (2012). Up to this point the Vikings are 8-7. Unfortunately for them 9-7 isn’t getting them in the playoffs. However, the Bears could need this to make a Wild Card spot, and I think the Vikings hold home field and upset the 10-5 Bears, 28-27.
That’s it, Minnesota goes 9-7, definitely covering the Vegas win Over/Under of 6…for those that partake in that sort of thing. I like what I’ve seen from the offense, Peterson is other-worldy and should have another strong year with possibly receptions in the area of 2009 when he last had a capable QB, the defense will be better (can’t be worse!) and the coaching staff will breathe new life into the team. Unfortunately, the NFC is so good, teams may need 11 wins just to make a Wild Card spot, 10 at a minimum. Among SEA, SF, GB, CHI, NO, who won’t have 10+ wins? The NFC is loaded.
Although 9-7 is a much-improved season and would be an exciting step for Zimmer and his staff, I don’t see the Vikings making the post-season. Regardless, my Fantasy Football team WILL, put a guarantee on it, and I can’t wait to watch the Packers and Seahawks kickoff Thursday. Go Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, my fantasy dream team!