The Minnesota Vikings were one of the great stories of the NFL in 2017. Behind Case Keenum of all people, the Vikings went 13-3, dominating the NFC North and ultimately advancing to the NFC Championship Game, one win away from playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Alas, it was not meant to be. Minnesota fell one game short of a Super Bowl appearance in their fairytale season.
However, last season has only reaffirmed belief in Vikings fans that the team will be a Super Bowl contender in 2018. Kirk Cousins has been brought in to hopefully provide an upgrade over Keenum at the quarterback position. The Vikings also had the best defense in the NFL last season. With another strong defensive effort and a little more production from the offense, the Vikings could be about to embark upon another memorable season.
Minnesota’s odds to win the Super Bowl are set at +1250. Those are decent odds with a nice pay off for a team that played in the NFC Championship Game last season. Oddsmakers also project the Vikings for 9.5 wins this season. Even with a slight step backward from last season, the Vikings feel like a safe bet to win at least 10 games and top that projection.
Of course, much of Minnesota’s season could depend on Cousins and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Cousins has posted impressive numbers in his career, and that should continue with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen catching his passes. The addition of Kendall Wright will also give the Vikings a third reliable receiver. However, Cousins also has a losing record in his career. To be fair, that’s not entirely his fault, but he comes to Minnesota with much to prove.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they should have a solid rushing attack to help out Cousins. Before his Week 4 injury last year, Dalvin Cook looked like the real deal. He could have a big year if he’s fully healthy. If not, the Vikings still have Latavius Murray, who is a viable backup.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota defense will be expected to do big things once again. The NFC Championship disaster aside, the Vikings allowed the fewest points in the NFL last season. They also added Sheldon Richardson to improve an already stout defensive line. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter combined for 20 sacks last year, giving the Vikings a feared pass rush. Minnesota is also set at linebacker with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. The secondary may have some holes, but corner Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith should help to solidify that group.
It’s important to remember that the Vikings were the benefactors of good health last season. If that continues to be the case, Minnesota’s defense should be elite again and capable of carrying the Vikings a long way. But if the Vikings are the victims of injuries, it will just put all the more pressure on Cousins and the offense. So while the Vikings are a good Super Bowl, they are in no way a slam dunk.
|Sep 9||San Francisco 49ers||1:00 PM|
|Sep 16||@ Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Sep 27||@ Los Angeles Rams||8:20 PM|
|Oct 7||@ Philadelphia Eagles||4:25 PM|
|Oct 14||Arizona Cardinals||1:00 PM|
|Oct 21||@ New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|Oct 28||New Orleans Saints||8:20 PM|
|Nov 4||Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|Nov 18||@ Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|Nov 25||Green Bay Packers||8:20 PM|
|Dec 2||@ New England Patriots||4:25 PM|
|Dec 10||@ Seattle Seahawks||8:15 PM|
|Dec 16||Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|Dec 23||@ Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
Minnesota’s schedule is no cake walk. They play three of their first five games on the road. They also play three playoff teams in that stretch, not including a trip to Lambeau Field in Week 2. The middle part of the schedule gets a little easier. This is when the Vikings need to be able to rack up the wins.
However, Minnesota’s final six games include a home date with the packers and road trips to New England and Seattle. The Vikings could find it difficult to both start fast and finish strong, which could interfere with their plans.
The more I look at Minnesota, the more I see disappointment. That’s not to say that the Vikings can’t win 10 games and reach the playoffs. But they’ll need to stay healthy on defense and have Cousins play like a Pro Bowler if they’re going to be a Super Bowl contender. It’s possible, but the Vikings still have much to prove, even coming off such an exceptional season.