Okay, so we’re feeling a little down about the squad lately. The preseason has been largely underwhelming for the Vikings’ starters and key players, and we’ve seen some of the issues responsible for last year’s second-half collapse linger into the exhibition games. Sunday’s game against the 49ers — despite the late heroics of Heinicke & Co. — sucked. Vikings fans are prone to worrying, and worry we will, at least until we see consistent pass blocking and defensive backs minding their assignments, among other things.
So perhaps this doesn’t come at the best time, but we here at VT are still insanely excited for the season. We’re less than two weeks away from real, meaningful football, and along with the disgruntling elements on which we love to dwell come some real signs for optimism. As it stands, the offensive line is, at the very least, improved. Dalvin Cook has the look of a feature back. And the defense has the talent to rank not only as the league’s best, but among the best units in team history.
So with the regular season right around the corner, I polled the Vikings Territory team on their record predictions for 2017:
Record Prediction: 9-7
If I know anything about being a fan of the Vikings, it’s that you never, EVER, get your hopes up too high. The better strategy is to set expectations low while still hoping for the best.
The Vikings finished 2016 at 8-8. The offense should improve thanks to a revamped offensive line and a couple of brand new running backs. Defensively, the loss of Captain Munnerlyn at the slot cornerback role and the lack of a reliable starting weak side linebacker are reasons to believe this defense could see a slight decrease in efficiency.
A final record of 9-7 with a chance at a Wild Card playoff spot sounds good to me.
Record Prediction: 9-7
Losing Captain Munnerlyn and Cordarrelle Patterson will have a ripple affect this year. Despite the fantastic pass rush from the defensive line, the pass defense as a whole will take a small step backwards this year due to Mackensie Alexander’s learning curve. The kick returners won’t be able to provide the same starting field position “The Flash” handed the offense.
The Vikings will boast an improved offensive line and rushing attack than last year. They will control the ball more and give opposing offenses less time of possession, which will keep the defense rested for the playoffs.
It’s all about divisional play. For whatever reason, it’s impossible for the Vikings to win in Chicago. I see losses there, at Green Bay, and one loss against the slowly-improving Lions.
My prediction of 9-7 is the floor for this team. There’s certainly potential for the Vikings to win more games than nine.
Record Prediction: 11-5
I thought a lot about this after the embarrassing showing against the San Francisco 49ers — at what point is it okay to legitimately worry about the Minnesota Vikings? Part of me wants to say now, but I can’t join the Twitter masses with my torch and pitchfork (yet).
There are plenty of reasons to doubt Minnesota’s 2017 resurgence, from uncharacteristic lapses in the secondary to a piecemeal offensive line still trying to find its way. But there’s too much talent on this team — at every position and on the coaching staff — to believe these blemishes carry over into the regular season.
I won’t be surprised, though, if the team starts the year flat, losing two of their first three games before hosting the Detroit Lions in Week 4 at 1-2. Even then, it’d be premature to write the season off. Once October hits, the Vikings enter a stretch of eight games where seven wins isn’t out of the question
In a perfect world, that puts Minnesota at 8-3 entering Week 13, and I’d expect the team (barring any major injuries) to finish with another three wins. Still, 11-5 won’t be enough to push the Vikings into the playoffs after losing both regular season games to the Green Bay Packers.
I see improvement for the Vikings, but not without some unfortunate bumps along the way. Sam Bradford will struggle, as all quarterbacks do throughout the season, and so will the offensive line. The defense will surely snooze through a game or two, but collectively, this is a team with the pieces to compete in every game it plays. That’s enough to guarantee a two- or three-win bump in Minnesota’s regular season record this year.
Record Prediction: 8-8
The Vikings without question have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. The defense has been dominant at times and other times have left some things to be desired, but there have been much more positives than negatives from that unit. The other side of the ball (offense) is what worries me heading into the 2017 season. QB Sam Bradford statistically had one of the best seasons of his career. Adding Dalvin Cook and Michael Floyd will certainly help, but the offensive line is once again revamped. There still seems to be something missing.
Currently, I’m not a big believer in this offense, who’s aiming to average at least 21 points a game. It always seems if the special teams unit or defense doesn’t consistently score points to help the offense then the Vikings have a hard time scoring. This is one of the biggest reasons why I struggle seeing the Vikings being above .500 this season.
Record Prediction: 9-7
Had my response to this question been prepared just a few days ago, I feel like it’d probably be more positive. However, my tardiness means that I’ve had a chance to watch the Vikings third preseason game and, as a result, my record prediction has dropped.
“But Brett, it’s just the preseason. They’re running a vanilla defense. The team isn’t scheming. They’re still working the kinks out. The preseason doesn’t mean anything!” I’m sorry, but I don’t buy into this line of thinking. Of course, the final score in preseason games doesn’t mean anything. And of course, regular season games will be much different. However, I don’t think any Vikings fan who’s being honest with themselves can walk away from what we’ve seen so far optimistic about how the team has looked. (And if you can, I applaud your optimism and the fact that your spirit has yet to be destroyed by this team.) There are still major issues along the offensive line, big question marks in the Vikings secondary and, yeah, I have some concerns about the QB play, too.
One silver lining I’m able to find right now is that I do believe the Vikings have a favorable schedule. Outside of our division games, the schedule is full of teams that the Vikings should beat. But my optimism which shined bright during the offseason that this was a team capable of taking it all the way has since faded into a dull glow far off in the distance.
My prediction is 9-7 and the Vikings just barely miss out on a wildcard spot. I pray that I am wrong. (Wrong in that my prediction is too low and we do make the playoffs. Just feel like I should probably clarify that!)
Record Prediction: 10-6
The Vikings have question marks along the offensive line and at slot cornerback, but there is superstar-caliber talent sprinkled across both the team’s offense and defense. Sam Bradford has plenty of versatile weapons at his disposal on offense and Minnesota’s defense features at least one Pro Bowler at each level. If the offensive line proves able to provide enough protection for Bradford to operate the Vikings could be a well-rounded and dangerous team.
Record Prediction: 11-5
I kind of like the way this preseason has played out. No devastating news, no ridiculously high expectations… if we can continue to ride this slightly-above-mediocre train until about Week Eight then, who knows, maybe the football gods will forget about us and actually not smite us down in some heartbreaking and spectacular fashion.
I wholeheartedly believe this defense is championship caliber despite preseason yips. I believe in Sam Bradford and his supporting cast just enough. And I genuinely believe this offensive line has improved. Overall, I think Minnesota has the deepest roster in the NFC North which will play a big part in them winning the division.
The team has had issues this preseason… just like 31 others. 11-5 and a division crown, homies.
Record Prediction: 10-6
I started writing my response to this question before Sunday’s game. While the Vikings starters seemed to struggle in the first two pre-season games, I had a lot riding on Sunday night’s game in terms of my expectations for the season. Despite the name of my site (purplePTSD.com) and my general personality/outlook on life, I’m a pretty optimistic person when it comes to the purple and gold, so it’s hard for me to admit that I’m officially worried about what I’m seeing on the field right now. It’s hard because I really did feel like the team had a shot at the division/playoffs this year, because on paper they’re very, very good (especially on the defensive side of the ball) and the offense has to be better than it was in 2016.
Why? Well because Bradford had a full off-season to get acclimated with his receivers/the system, the offensive line was completely overhauled and they replaced McKinnon and Asiata with Cook, Murray and McKinnon. So, the biggest problem (of many) is that the starting offensive line doesn’t seem to be gelling. That’s lead to people saying that perhaps the interior line up of rookie from Ohio State Pat Elflein at center, Nick Easton at left guard and Joe Berger at right guard (three guards in a row!) might be a better fit than the actual starting line-up of Boone, Easton and Berger. That’d leave the semi-expensive and splashy free agency signing from last off-season in Alex Boone on the bench, which would be surprising. But, if they can figure that out (and I think they will, eventually), this team has a chance this year.
The addition of Michael Floyd to the offense also brings an X-factor that they didn’t have last year and should make defenses respect the passing game a bit more (if Shurmur actually goes for it once in awhile). The reason I was so optimistic was that the NFC seems relatively weak, at least based on how things ended in 2016. So, if they can figure out whatever the problem(s) is/are, they still have a shot and like I said I’m still an optimist. So, looking at the schedule, I really am leaning towards another 11-5 season. Instead, to be safe, I’ll go with 10-6. In Zim we trust… Indeed.
Record Prediction: 10-6
I could list my concerns here, for they are real, but the gentleman already did a good job summing them up. And anyway, at the proverbial end of the day, I believe this team has significantly more positives than it does negatives. The offense will be improved, and while it will still falter more than most of us would like, even an ascension to the middle of the pack will be enough to propel this team to a winning record.
That’s because defense is still the key to sustained success in the NFL, and this unit is simply too talented to not be dominant. There were no significant departures from last year’s unit that finished third in yards allowed; rather, an infusion of young talent should make the fearsome squad even deeper, and better. I’m expecting a bounce-back year for Anthony Barr, and that alone could mean a defensive jump from good to great.
It’s early, of course, but not to be overlooked is the potential for the 2017 draft class to have a tremendous impact on this year’s team, and beyond. In Cook, Elflein, Gedeon, and Jaleel Johnson, we’re looking at four eventual starters, many whom are poised to crack the lineup sooner than later. Add in the encouraging signs we’ve seen from Coley, Adams, and Isidora, to name a few, and we could be remembering this draft class for decades.
Sam Bradford will be good, not great, and that will be enough for this team to make the playoffs. 10-6 and a Wild Card berth.