With the Minnesota Vikings season on the verge of starting, the Zone Coverage staff got together to predict how the season would fare for the purple and gold.
In looking at the 2019 season for the Vikings, I think they will have somewhat of a bounce-back year, improving on last year’s 8-7-1 finish. At first glance, Minnesota has somewhat of an easier eight-game home schedule but has a tough schedule in the eight games on the road, resulting in the prediction of it finishing the year 10-6 overall. Behind a healthy and more balanced offense, mixed with a solid defensive unit, I think that will be enough for the Vikings to take the NFC North title.
With the lighter home schedule, I think the Vikings could finish with around seven wins on their home field, much as they did during the 2017 season. If they can do that while also stealing a few close games on the road, the double-digit win total should be obtainable. Hosting a Wild Card Round game at US Bank Stadium, I think Minnesota makes it out of the opening round of the playoffs before ultimately having its season end in the Divisional Round.
Regular-season record: 10-6 overall
Playoff finish: Losing in the Division Round of the playoffs
I’m going with 10-6 and winning the NFC North. Why?
I think the Chicago Bears will see some luck-driven — and perhaps some non-luck-driven, as well — regression from their defense, and they’ll finish 9-7. I think the Green Bay Packers will experience some growing pains between the head coach and the “head coach” and will finish 8-8. I think the Lions could be surprisingly good, but it’s hard to see them any better than 7-9.
As for the Vikings, I think it’ll be a nice smash-and-dash combination of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison carrying the backfield, and Mike Zimmer will finally get to “establish the run” like he’s wanted to the last couple years.
I still don’t think that’ll be as run-heavy as people might expect — and with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, why would it be? — but it’ll still be enough to keep defenses honest.
Cousins – 4,500 yards, 35-12 TD/INT
Cook – 1,200 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, 12 total TD
Mattison – 400 rushing yards, 4 TD
Diggs – 1,200 yards, 12 TD
Thielen – 1,500 yards, 10 TD
My best guess is that this upcoming Vikings season will be just as stressful and mediocre as 2018-19 was. A relatively healthy Dalvin Cook will help the offense to save some face, but special teams struggles and another marginal step back on the defensive end will keep this talented bunch out of the post-season picture. It will be Mike Zimmer’s final season as Head Coach, trade-buzz around Kirk Cousins will pick up and the Vikings will draft a quarterback in one of the 2020 draft’s first few rounds. 9-7.
Also, if stress and mediocrity are your things, check out our Wolves coverage!
As I have mentioned on twitter…
The revamped offensive line allows Kirk Cousins to see the field better and not get into panic mode immediately on every snap as we saw at the end of last season. Dalvin Cook emerges — much to Mike Zimmer’s delight — as a big threat out of the backfield to complement the passing game. The defense remains the same — very good — as in previous years under Zimmer with Mike Hughes emerging as a solid corner following his injury last year.
Minnesota goes 11-5 and wins the North. With the Super Bowl in Miami, the Vikings find a way to find a new soul-crushing defeat in the NFC Championship game like they did in 1998 and 2009 (both Super Bowls were in Miami) and come up short of the big game once again.
The Vikings defense returns most of their vital pieces, but Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense still is an uncertainty. They should be fine with Diggs and Thielen. Irv Smith Jr. should be a weapon. The offensive line should improve. But until we see it, I see this as a 10-win team in a division where Green Bay or Chicago could go 10-6, or better, and provide plenty of competition for the Vikes.
9-7: This is one game worse than I predicted on the Football Machine podcast last episode, but after talking it through a couple times, I’ve just got too many questions about these Vikings. Is the defense on the verge of a regression? Why couldn’t the offensive line seem to block anyone in training camp? What happens if any of the corners or wide receivers get hurt early in the season? Does anyone know what’s going on with special teams? I also can’t overlook the brutal second-half schedule that includes games at Kansas City, at Dallas, at Seattle and at Los Angeles. Four playoff teams on the road? With Kirk Cousins?
The schedule IS more forgiving in the front half. Maybe we come to find out that the offensive changes the Vikings made will reinvigorate Cousins and get this team to the schedule gauntlet with a 7-1 record. I believe that is what’s required if the Vikings are to be a contender.