lions
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

This is the fifth installment of our Opposing View series, in which we gauge the league-wide perception of the Vikings by talking to bloggers from around the NFL. For each post, I’ll seek out a writer for a team on the 2017 Vikings schedule, and ask them a few short questions about the way they view our squad from afar. 

This time around, I chatted with Jeremy Reisman of PrideofDetroit.com. The Vikings play the Lions in Weeks Four and Twelve.

Check out the previous installments here:

Q&A With Steelers Writer Alex Kozora
Q&A With Bears Writer Jeff Hughes
Q&A With Packers Writer Zachary Jacobson
Q&A With Lions Writer Kent Lee Platte

VTTop of your head, give me the first things you think of with the Minnesota Vikings going into 2017.

Jeremy Reisman: I think of a team that’s trying to get back to the things that made the Vikings a division winner back in 2015: Great defense and a running game. I’ll buy into the Vikings‘ defense right now, but the running game on offense is still very much under question, because of the offensive line.

VT: As it stands, what do you think is their biggest strength? How about weakness?

JR: This team can punish the opposing quarterback better than just about any team in the NFL. Everson Griffen really belongs in the conversation of the best pass rushers in the NFL. If he can stay healthy for a full season, I think he’s a lock to finish with 10+ sacks again.

The biggest weakness is that offensive line. It’s clear by the offseason additions of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray that Minnesota wants the identity of this offense to be its running game. Unfortunately, despite the offseason additions of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, I think this is still a subpar unit. They’ll be better than last year, but I don’t think by much.
VT: What’s your opinion of Mike Zimmer as a head coach?

JR: Zimmer’s a great defensive mind and an even better defensive coach. That being said, I think he’s getting a little too much credit as a head coach. Though he’s had to deal with a monumental amount of injuries in his three years with the Vikings, he still holds a modest 26-22 record. As a comparison, much-maligned Lions coach Jim Caldwell has had a 27-21 record over the same time period, and some would argue with a worse roster.

Zimmer is a fine coach, and I think the Vikings can absolutely succeed under him. But I see some calling him a top 10 coach, and I would pump the brakes on that.
VT: There is a lot of disagreement about Sam Bradford in the Vikings community. What are your thoughts on him as a starting quarterback?

JR: Sam Bradford is the ultimate game-manager quarterback. While that may seem like an insult to the guy, it really isn’t. He’s the perfect quarterback for what the Vikings are trying to do over there. Minimize mistakes, make accurate short throws, and hold a lead when the Vikings get it.

Obviously, every team wants a game-changing quarterback who can take the team on his back and sling it downfield for 400 yards a game, but Minnesota knows Bradford isn’t that guy. He’s a player who will wear down a defense little by little, and hardly ever make a disastrous decision.
He’s not a great quarterback to have if the team falls behind by a lot, but with the Vikings‘ defense as it is, that shouldn’t be a huge problem.
VT: How would you predict the final NFC North Standings?

JR: Until Aaron Rodgers chooses golf as his newest career, I can’t in good faith pick anyone other than the Packers to win the division. It’ll be a race between the Vikings and Lions for second place again, but the Bears are seriously on the rise right now, and will probably steal 2 or 3 division games this year.

Packers: 11-5
Vikings: 9-7
Lions: 8-8
Bears: 6-10
VT: Finally, I’m interested in your thoughts on the Lions this year. They’ve been close in recent years but seemingly unable to get over the hump. Do you think they have a chance to get that playoff win in 2017?

JR: I’m a little more down on the Lions than most right now. The offense should be improved from last year with the return of Ameer Abdullah and a fixed offensive line (on the right side, at least). But this defense will continue to hold this team down. It was literally the worst defense in the league last year, and while the Lions took strides to improve this offseason, I don’t think those improvements will be seen right away. It’ll take a few years to improve from the massive crater of a defense they had last year, and so I think Detroit takes a minor step back.

I still think Matthew Stafford is a good enough quarterback that the Lions have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, but until they fix the defense, they won’t make any real postseason noise.

Takeaways

  • Unsurprisingly, offensive line has come up as the biggest weakness in just about all of these conversations. I agree with Jeremythe Vikings will be better there in 2017, but it’s still unlikely to be an above-average unit. The struggles we’ve seen in the preseason — especially on the right side — are concerning, but with the release of Alex Boone, Minnesota will have five new starters along the offensive line. That’s not a bad thing. I’m anxious to see what the Easton/Elflein/et al configuration looks like for a whole game, and if Mike Remmers can hold up in pass protection at right tackle.
  • Love the opinion Jeremy gives of Zimmer as a head coach and the comparison to Caldwell’s record. I’m a Zimmer fan, but I’ve said before 2017 will be a big year in determining his aptitude as a game manager and a leader. He still has some work to do in those departments. I’m optimistic about Zimmer’s future in Minnesota, but am not ready to label him the second coming of Bud Grant just yet.
  • Another trend we’re seeing in the analysis of Bradford: you can win with him, but it’s not too often you’ll win because of him. And as Jeremy points out, that’s not the worst thing to have with the way the Vikings are assembled.

Thanks to Jeremy for participating. You can follow him on Twitter at @DetroitOnLion.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good discussion, and I especially appreciate the balanced comparison of Mike Zimmer and Jim Caldwell as head coaches.

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  2. I think the oline will go through there growing pains but after a couple of games they should be ok. plus dont forget the Vikes do have play makers on the edges. If the Offence can put up 24 points they can win alot of games with the defence leading the way. Vikings 10-6 to 11-5.

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