I have to admit, I get a lot of fulfillment in my Minnesota Vikings fandom from reading so-called experts’ takes on my favorite team. Sure, most are uninformed and cater to the fans, but sometimes they provide insight into our personal biases and where the team actually fits in the NFL landscape. And while the Vikings may be an average NFL team, there’s a variance of opinion when it comes to predicting the ultimate success of the purple and gold.
I’ve compiled the prognostications of some of the most popular (and a few not-so-popular) sites in a quest to answer a question that’s eating away at my soul: How good will the Vikings be this season?
ESPN – 13th
Courtney Cronin of ESPN provided the most generous ranking of the five included here. Her primary focus was the offensive line, as it was with many other outlets, but she has a great take here.
The emphasis on the O-line is an important one, and Cronin thinks the biggest difference will be the size of the two newly drafted linemen. The Vikings have previously trended towards more agile linemen like Garrett Bradbury, Brian O’Neill, Ezra Cleveland, and Pat Elflein. Obviously, Elflein didn’t work out, but the reality is that only O’Neill is a proven starter.
The move toward bigger pass-blocking linemen is sure to benefit Kirk Cousins, considering he’s been mostly a statue in the pocket. Cronin said Cousins is the one to benefit the most from the Vikings’ moves after the 2021 NFL Draft. That’s key considering Cousins’ replacement could very well have been selected in the third round this year.
PFF – 23rd
Seeing the Vikings ranked at 23 doesn’t look too bad at first glance, even though it’s a whopping 10 spots lower than ESPN places them. But here are some teams PFF put higher than Minnesota:
- The Washington Football Team
- Denver Broncos
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Dallas Cowboys
- Atlanta Falcons
The Vikings had the same or better record than all of these teams, and that was last year when they were riddled with season-ending injuries and lacked depth. PFF omitted an explanation besides a Super Bowl win probability (0.9%) and their best-rated player (Justin Jefferson, 93.5), but the teams in front of them tell the story.
Twenty-three seems like a stretch in the wrong direction, but maybe it’s because I view this offseason through purple-tinted glasses. The Vikings are fairly unproven in their current state, and it remains to be seen whether they can put together a successful season. I don’t think this ranking is strictly a reflection of the team’s talent level, it’s based on the worst-case scenario of last year.
CBS Sports – 16th
Similar to ESPN’s ranking, CBS focuses on the offensive line. They note that the line got some bigger players and restocked the roster, but this is the first article to mention the free agents the Vikings signed to bolster the defense.
It’s surprising that none of the experts listed here mention players like Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Sheldon Richardson, and even Xavier Woods by name; they may end up on the most-improved defense in the NFL.
CBS notes that the defense will likely firm up thanks to the additions, but it leaves readers with nothing further than “Mike Zimmer will have this team back in the playoff hunt.”
They aren’t lying, but 16th is on the border of the playoff hunt, considering only 12 teams qualify for the playoffs. The Vikings’ roster is littered with uncertainty, leaving CBS with unanswered questions about the team.
Sportsnaut – 19th
I’ve never heard of Sportsnaut or this Matt Johnson fella (don’t worry, it’s literally not me, there are a lot of us), but they had more of a distinctive take on the Vikings. Nineteenth is another ranking that seems lower than their evaluation indicates, but this assessment is more thorough.
“Danielle Hunter is healthy and motivated, a huge boost for Minnesota’s pass rush.”
This was the most important move of the offseason, so I’m glad someone finally mentioned it. They go further with a few other points:
- The added veteran presence will boost the inexperienced cornerback room
- Offensive line improvements
“This can be a playoff contender.” “Can” is the operative word here, because no one really knows what any NFL team will be — especially the Vikings.
They go on to write that Minnesota will take the NFC North if Rodgers doesn’t end up playing for the Green Bay Packers, but they’re ranked well into the lower half of the NFL. Will the NFC North really be that weak next year?
Bleacher Report – Between 21st & 27th
Unlike the other outlets, Bleacher Report gave teams a range for their rankings.
“The Minnesota Vikings are one of the more difficult teams in the league to get a bead on.”
The biggest takeaway from this ranking is the team’s margin for error. BR used last year as an example, which is fair because injuries could reoccur.
This ranking is interesting because the majority of it is praise and positive outlooks, both on the return of injured players and the arrival of free agents. The only purely negative factor they highlight is that the Vikings were bad (7-9) last year.
It’s clear that people don’t really know what the Vikings can be next season. Slotted in the middle or latter half of the league, it’s clear that experts don’t think they are primed for a deep playoff run, but rather they have a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.
So don’t go running to Las Vegas (or Iowa) to place your bets on the Vikings’ +5,000 Super Bowl odds. The experts have no idea if Minnesota will be in the bottom fourth of the league or make a playoff run.