With Free Agency over and the NFL Draft concluded, the offseason has mostly come to a close. Give or take a few unresolved issues, like the Kyle Rudolph situation, we largely know who will be playing where. So, now is a better time than any to predict how the season will play out. We asked our writers the same simple question; How many games will the Minnesota Vikings win this year?
The Vikes start the season hot taking their first 3 games handily, though garbage time in Green Bay makes the score look closer than the game is. The team drops a close one in Chicago to a stout Bears defense moving themselves to 3-1, but rebounds next week by blowing out the New York Giants. Sitting at 4-1, Dalvin Cook has a strong showing by rushing over Philly’s defense for 150-yards and 2 TDs and the Vikings 5th win. The next week they lose a head scratcher in Detroit off of a Matthew Stafford 4th quarter comeback, because that’s what Stafford does.
The team sits at 5-2 when Kirk Cousins former team, the Washington Redskins come to town for the teams first primetime game of the year. Cousins and company roll the Redskins easily, but drop a close one the next week to Pat Mahomes and the high powered Kansas City Chiefs. The 6-3 again play in primetime where they dismantle Dak Prescott and the cowboys to pick up their 7th win before rolling through Denver and taking win number 8 against the poor offense of the Joe Flacco led Broncos.
Heading into the bye week, the Vikings get healthy and rested for their Monday night contest in Seattle, where they lose a low scoring one due to some mental mistakes and questionable officiating. They take an easy one against a deflated Lions team at home in week 14, sacking Stafford close to 10 times in the process. Now sitting at 9-4, the Vikings travel to sunny LA where they lay an absolute egg to the Chargers. This motivates the team to blowout, and eliminate, a Packers team on Monday night in week 16. In the final week of the season, they take a win by a touchdown to seal a division title at 11-5 over the Chicago Bears and send them to the 1st wild card spot.
The toughest games on the Vikings schedule include road games at Seattle, Los Angeles, and Kansas City. Of these games, I think the Vikings have a chance in all of them and could flip the record to 14-2, but I think they do lose at least 1 of the 3, probably at KC.
The team absolutely grinds through teams at home this season, but they have a couple of tough matchups against division foes with something to play for to end the year. If they can win some of the tough ones, we could see another 13-3 or better team, but more likely is that they finish either 10-6 or 11-5.
The Vikings will find a way to 10-6 and grab either a wild card or division title to return to the playoffs. How that happens is difficult to predict due to the nature of the NFL. Seemingly ‘easy’ games, such as Oakland and Detroit could be teams that are vastly improved from last year. Meanwhile, playoff incumbents, such as Dallas, Seattle and even Kansas City could prove to be easier than they look at the onset of the season.
Ultimately the first five games will set the tone for the season. If the Vikings are anything other than an expected 3-2, it will show the true colors of the team. A 4-1 start or better would mean crucial wins in Green Bay or Chicago. Meanwhile, a 2-3 or worse start would signal losing home games to Atlanta or Oakland, or seemingly worse away at the Giants
4-2 division. with losses at GB and Chicago, though the warm weather of September could fuel a potential upset.
6-2 home. with losses vs Philadelphia and TBD (probably surprise like the Bills last year). The home schedule is favorable, as the Vikes host GB and Chicago at the end of the season with opponents on the road. Atlanta or a divisional game could sneak in here.
4-4 away. Already established losing in Chicago and Green Bay, there are multiple games that look like a coin flip. Given the Vikings history in Seattle and the first showdown with Patrick Mahomes, the Seahawks and Chiefs seem like the other two away losses.
Ultimately, this means the Vikings beat: Atlanta, Oakland, NYG, Detroit x2, Washington, Dallas, LAC, Green Bay, Chicago. Seems reasonable.
With very few offseason moves, this team is very similar to the team last year that went 8-7-1. Then again, it is also basically the same team that went 13-3 and to the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings are a difficult team to predict this year. The biggest addition, the one that will make the most difference from the record they had last year is Gary Kubiak. What he will be able to to with this offense will determine the final record. Kirk Cousins is in his second year as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, and free agents usually take a big leap from year one to year two with a new team. Cousins, combined with Kubiak, Rick Dennison (offensive line coach) and the newly remastered offensive line will give this team a boost from last year.
With very tough road games against the Chiefs and Chargers, the schedule wasn’t kind to the Vikings. However, the why the schedule is ordered, is about as friendly as is could be. Playing at Lambeau early, the mini-bye right before that tough KC game, and having the late week 12 bye right before a tough road game against the Seahawks. The Minnesota Vikings could easily go 12-4, but could just as easily go 8-8. So I have split the difference with my prediction.
Record Prediction: 10-6 (Wild card birth)
A common fallacy amongst NFL fans (and occasionally team executives) is the assumption that a team’s weaknesses can be fixed while every roster strength will remain from year to year. This happens with every team, every offseason. Fans buy into the hype that they signed the right guys in free agency, made the important trades for future star players, and drafted that missing piece their team has always needed. Yet by the time the season rolls around, we see these dreams get crushed. Even when the newly added players do work out, veteran players get older, and they lose a step. Star players go down with injuries and are replaced by inadequate backups. What was an advantage last year becomes an exploitable weakness the next. Inevitably, some teams will lose more games than they win. It happens every year. Other teams with high hopes will miss the playoffs, Minnesota fans know this well. Yet, like any other fanbase, they will get excited about the new weapons they added in the offseason.
Undoubtedly, the rebuilding of the interior of the offensive line is the biggest reason for hope amongst the Vikings fanbase. Clearly, the offensive line was to blame for the lack of success last season. Just last year, the offensive weapons were stellar; both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs looked like top 5 wide receivers, while Kyle Rudolph, Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray weren’t too shabby either. Kirk Cousins looked like everything you want in a quarterback – when he had time. Give him time, and this offense will click.
The newly assembled offensive line should do just that. Garrett Bradbury came out of the draft as the best college center in the nation and landed in Minnesota’s lap. Surely Guard Josh Kline will be better than the likes of Tom Compton and Mike Remmers, neither of whom had any business playing on the interior in a professional setting. Add in Irv Smith Jr, a dynamic tight end out of Alabama and running back Alexander Mattison to pick up where Murray left off, and this offense could be one of the most explosive in the league.
But will it? Diggs and Thielen both had amazing years in 2018, but even a regression to “pretty good” instead of “jaw-droppingly amazing” will sink the passing offense. Especially without any clarity on the third wide receiver option. Who is that going to be by the way? Treadwell again? Irv Smith Jr. is joining the team, but rookie tight ends notoriously don’t produce in their first year, and incumbent tight end Kyle Rudolph might be cut or traded. Josh Kline might be good, but he wasn’t great with Tennessee. There’s a reason the Titans willingly let him go despite having more than enough money to do so.
But even if this rookie class is phenomenal, let’s assume Bradbury and Smith Jr are abnormally wonderful impact performers, and for the sake of argument let’s say a seventh-round rookie like Dillon Mitchell becomes a great third wide receiver as well, this team could still have weaknesses. The defense can only get worse. Sheldon Richardson was replaced by basically nobody on the interior of the defensive line. Shamar Stephen is coming back as the presumed starter after the Vikings let him walk to Seattle just last year. Next to him are Linval Joseph, who is one of the oldest Vikings at the age of 31, and Everson Griffen, who the team was willing to cut if he did not restructure his contract. Turning 32 this year, Griffen agreed to the restructure knowing there are not many teams willing to pay an aging playing coming off a down year. Holton Hill is already suspended, putting the secondary at risk with a starter coming back from an ACL tear (Mike Hughes) and another who is also closely approaching his 30s (Xavier Rhodes). And for all we know, Anthony Harris was a one-year wonder.
I’m not saying all of these factors are reasons to be pessimistic, I’m just saying they could be. There’s just as much chance of Bradbury turning into a pro-bowl lineman in his first year as there is of Linval Joseph regressing or of Stefon Diggs twisting his knee the wrong way after a catch. These things happen. In fact, I still see more reasons to be optimistic. Bradbury, Smith Jr, and Mattison could all be impact performers in year one, and I actually like Josh Kline. Anthony Barr spurning the Jets to come back to Minnesota is perhaps the story of the offseason, and the team is tremendously better off with him on the roster.
This team isn’t a Super Bowl winner in May because too many things can, and will, go wrong. But enough can go right to have a successful season despite these setbacks, whatever they may be. Let’s just hope the Bears lose some games along the way.
Final Win/Loss Prediction: 10-6