Folks living in Minneapolis or surrounding areas tend to have a more optimistic outlook about the 2021 Minnesota Vikings than pundits living in, for example, Missouri, New York, or Texas.
Ask Vikings fans about the upcoming season, and the response is a mix between “this team will be a lot better with players back healthy” and a clear definition of the stakes that loom. Based on the scope of talent on the roster, Minnesota has yet another all-in year – about five straight of those have occurred – but the head coach and quarterback are on a short leash. Onlookers speculate that head coach Mike Zimmer must reach the postseason and probably win a game in January to secure employment beyond 2021. And that requires a healthy dose of Kirk Cousins, who must showcase a year-long surge of upper-echelon performance with weapons galore like Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith Jr.
So, Minnesotans are high on September, which is just around the seasonal corner. Other NFL-reporting outfits perceive the Vikings as a middle-of-the-road squad.
Why? Likely because the Vikings finished 7-9 last season, causing pedestrian play to loom in people’s minds to the utmost. Cousins remains the quarterback, and the national opinion of him is akin to Derek Carr or Alex Smith from about five years ago.
Pro Football Network and its Power Rankings this week clearly elucidate the mediocre sentiment for the Vikings. It places the Vikings at the #16 spot in the league for 2021 outlook. That’s exactly in the middle. Dalton Miller of Pro Football Network explained:
“The Vikings are an interesting team heading into 2021 at No. 16 in the initial NFL Power Rankings. If Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay through trade or retirement, the Vikings become the leader in the NFC North clubhouse. That also quickly becomes the most underwhelming division in football. Justin Jefferson broke out in All-Pro fashion as a rookie. They added Christian Darrisaw to the offensive line in Round 1 and upgraded a previously nameless defensive line. The additions of Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, and the return of Danielle Hunter transform this defense.”
This even put the Vikings in a defined tier, one titled “Possible Division Winners/Playoff Contenders.” It’s the same territory as the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and Indianapolis Colts.
General Manager Rick Spielman certainly didn’t do nothing this offseason. These last few months have created massive roster fluctuation, particularly on defense. Spielman traded for a guard-center named Mason Cole with the Arizona Cardinals. Cole figures to be a ‘swingman’ on the Vikings line in the vein of Nick Easton of yesteryear. The rest of the additions are defensive free agents:
- Mackensie Alexander (CB)
- Bashaud Breeland (CB)
- Amari Henderson (CB)
- Parry Nickerson (CB)
- Patrick Peterson (CB)
- Sheldon Richardson (DT)
- Tye Smith (CB)
- Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)
- Nick Vigil (LB)
- Stephen Weatherly (DE)
- Xavier Woods (S)
The 2021 NFL Draft was an offense-centric affair:
- Virginia Tech — OT Christian Darrisaw
- Texas A&M — QB Kellen Mond
- North Carolina — LB Chazz Surratt
- Ohio State — G Wyatt Davis
- Pittsburgh — DE Patrick Jones II
- Iowa State — RB Kene Nwangwu
- California — S Camryn Bynum
- Florida State — EDGE Janarius Robinson
- Iowa — WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
- Central Missouri — TE Zach Davidson
- Pittsburgh — DT Jalen Twyman
Now, the Vikings must go out and actually win the games, seeking to shatter the ho-hum predictions offered by national analysts.
Minnesota travels to Cincinnati for a Week 1 date with the Bengals in 81 days.