Friday, February 12, 2016

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NFC North by Matt Engstrom
NFC North by Matt Engstrom

Week One in the NFL always seems to be filled with enormous surprises and unusual box scores. After months and months of analyzing teams on paper, that funny shaped ball and the human factors collide for predictably unpredictable outcomes… especially at the start of the season.

With all of that being said, I want to feel out our readership and see how you think the NFC North teams will fare this weekend. The VT staff will have their Vikings-Niners predictions in just before kickoff on Monday night, but at this time we want to defer to you through three simple poles.

Tell us how you think things will shake out in Week One!

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The Vikings will kick off the 2015 regular season in San Francisco, facing the 49ers for Monday Night Football. With Adrian Peterson returning to the field after missing almost all of last season and Teddy Bridgewater heading into his full second year at the helm, the Vikings have several things to feel optimistic about.

Almost all teams experience face lifts during the offseason, but the 49ers in particular underwent extreme adjustments. In addition to gaining a new head coach in Jim Tomsula after Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan, San Francisco lost several players to retirement, off-field issues and free agency.

Let’s take a look at the Week 1 matchup:

Offensive Line

All right, let’s start with what is safe to assume will be the Vikings’ biggest concern: the offensive line. Most fans are still reeling from last year’s OL woes, and it appeared early this offseason that 2015 would offer better protection for Bridgewater and company.

Now, heading into Week 1, the Vikings are without starting tackle Phil Loadholt (Achilles) and starting center John Sullivan (back). The news of Sullivan having surgery came abruptly Thursday, after the team had reported for weeks that Sullivan simply suffered from back spasms.

In the absence of Loadholt and Sullivan, the Vikings will be relying on rookie T.J. Clemmings and veteran Joe Berger to fill in, respectively. However, there are a few silver linings: Clemmings has looked decent practicing in Loadholt’s stead, and there’s a lot of potential to grow into. Berger has been practicing with the first team for quite awhile now, and he is not exactly inexperienced. Also, the Vikings have Brandon Fusco back at the line after missing parts of the 2014 season.

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If there are any major concerns with a Vikings team heading to San Francisco to open up the 2015 season on national TV, one of them has to be Blair Walsh.

Walsh, a rookie phenom who was booming kicks all over the place, has seemingly developed a bit of the yips and notably struggled during the preseason. What a great time to move the extra point kicks back, making a sure thing now a question mark.

The reason I bring up Walsh’s struggles is because it does have an impact on games. So does the entire special teams unit, although they are often overlooked when breaking down a team.

So what exactly are we getting from this group in 2015? Let’s take a look.

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Join Vikings Territory's DraftKings contest and play against our staff

Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings Practice Septemter 2015
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My obsession with fantasy football is borderline unhealthy. (My wife would tell you it is not borderline.) Just a few months ago, I was insistent that I not get involved in too many leagues this year. I had a variety of reasons: it’s too difficult to manage all the different teams, the drafts are too time consuming, it’s hard to root for (or against) any one particular player because you own them all, etc… I told myself I was only going to play in three full-time leagues this year. I was positive I could resist the temptation to not over-allocate myself.

As of yesterday, I’m in eight different leagues.

I can’t even tell you how it happened; I’m ashamed of myself. It’s like I blacked out and, while unconscious, drafted all these incredible teams. It’s honestly ridiculous. I’m in so many different leagues with so many different players on my team that I now just basically root for everybody on Sunday and don’t even bother checking the scores of my fantasy teams until the sun has set and the dust has settled.

Nevertheless, I love it. And when I thought fantasy football couldn’t get any better, a few years ago I stumbled across Daily Fantasy Football. Everyone knows the best part of fantasy football is the draft. So when I found out that fantasy football existed in a format where I could draft multiple teams every week it was too good to be true.

You all undoubtedly have seen the commercials. Everyday Joe, just like you and I, wins millions of dollars by playing fantasy football. Joe is now able to quit his job and retire at age 30, never having to work again, and rides off into the sunset in a carriage drawn by Andrew Luck, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and, of course, Adrian Peterson. I’m not going to lie to you… While the odds are certainly better than playing the lotto, it’s difficult to win big money in these contests. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. And that certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be won at all. Last season, I placed pretty well in a few contests and ended up being able to pocket about twice as much as I started with. So, while winning millions of dollars is highly unlikely, as long as your expectations are relatively realistic, Daily Fantasy Football can be a tremendous amount of fun.

That’s why this year we’ve decided to partner up with DraftKings. Throughout the 2015 season, we are going to be holding weekly contests here at Vikings Territory. These contests will be relatively small in nature and require a small buy-in, keeping the amount of money you need to enter low and the chances of you winning high. I’m going to give you guys all the information you need for the contest we are holding this week, some links to join into the bigger contests DraftKings is hosting and then wrap up by looking at some of the values to be had with various Vikings players.

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The Vikings head to San Francisco to kick off the season and as you sit there with groggy eyes on a Monday evening, there will be plenty to watch.

The defensive match up certainly looks favorable for the Vikings as the team has seemingly improved on that side of the ball, whereas San Francisco took a giant step backwards across the board this off season.

Although there will be several bright spots on the 2015 Vikings, I think the defense will set the tone for this football team. This defense will be aggressive and unrelenting with pressure on the quarterback, hopefully making life easier on our defensive backs.

I wanted to take a look at each component of the defense and evaluate how the team stacks up against the 49ers.

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