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Vikings season preview

Keith Allison/Hanover, MD, USA - Stefon Diggs Vikings at Redskins 11/12/17

“Our wait for a Super Bowl Championship may be over soon.” This is how I ended last year’s season preview for the Minnesota Vikings in the Manitou Messenger. Bolstered by unbridled optimism and, frankly, undeserved confidence brought upon by an outlier 13-3 2017 season, I began predicting big things for our boys in purple and gold. What can I say, I was excited! We had done nothing but improve our team over the offseason, upgrading at quarterback (supposedly) with the signing of free agent Kirk Cousins, and re-upping our young talented core led by Eric Kendricks and Stephon Diggs.

Unfortunately, as they often do, the football gods laughed at my predictions and crashed the Vikings back down to earth, having them finish a very pedestrian 8-7-1, missing the playoffs entirely. All things considered, the season was a far cry from the NFC Championship berth of the year prior. So, I have decided to take a more realistic approach to my Vikings predictions this year.

There are many things to be optimistic about when it comes to the Vikings. We have by far the best receiving tandem in the league with Stephon Diggs and Adam Theilen (that’s right Browns fans, I said it. OBJ and Landry have nothing on us). We have a rising star at running back in Dalvin Cook. He got off to a slow start last season, but after we fired our god-awful offensive coordinator Jon Defillipo and actually started running the ball, he finished the season with a more than respectable 615 yards on the season.
Kirk Cousins will have another year to grow in the Vikings system. As the season progressed the calls to do away with Cousins grew louder and louder, but I think we should give the man one more year. It takes some time to transition to a new offensive system, and all things considered, he didn’t have a bad 2018 season, tossing the pigskin for 4200 yards and 30 touchdowns.

However, there is a reason his former team and the team that drafted him, the Washington Redskins, didn’t want to give him the massive contract doled out by the Vikings last year. Especially considering the weapons at his disposal, if there isn’t significant improvement in the team’s performance this year, it may be time to look for our next starting quarterback (I mean seriously, we haven’t had a serious franchise quarterback since what… Randall Cunnigham? Brett Farve for a season?).

We also won’t have to suffer through a first-place schedule like we did last year. This season, we only play six games against opponents who made the playoffs last year (the Bears being two of them), making for a much easier campaign in comparison to last year. There are many reasons to be hopeful for a successful Vikings season this fall.
However, there are also many reasons to worry that we might yet again not see the postseason this year. The NFC and especially our division rivals have gotten significantly better over the offseason. The Bears’ defense is about as terrifying as a defense can get, led by gridiron monsters like Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith. And while his skill ceiling is arguably quite low for a second overall pick in the draft, Bear’s QB Mitch Trubisky has really come into his own, even managing to scrape his way into a pro-bowl alternate berth last season. Now if the Bears can just shore up their kicking game, they might be a legitimate threat. The Packers on the other hand, are as terrifying as ever (in fact as I’m writing this the Vikings just fell at the hands of the Cheeseheads 21-16). With a more than competent defense, as well as a head coach in Matt LaFleur who actually employs imaginative play calling, Aaron Rodgers is certainly something to be marveled at and feared.

All in all, I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to the Vikings. We have a variety of reasons to think that we will be successful this season, and even if we aren’t, we have reason to believe our future is bright. Personally, I think that we will finish the season 9-7, missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. But hell, after last season’s prediction, what do I know.

warren4@stolaf.edu