Coming from strength, moving toward powerhouse
Coming off a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in last season’s NFC Championship, the Vikings return fighting with fire this season. 2017 was the year of a number one-ranked defense for the Vikings. That defense returns this year, building upon its depth and looking to earn top title again this season.
Meanwhile, the offense looks to catch up with new headliners. Notably different is the team’s loss of offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, who now heads up the New York Giants. Fortunately, the Vikings snagged Super Bowl champ Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, John DeFilippo, to fill Shurmur’s spot. I feel something special happening.
Getting hot, hotter
Keep your eyes open for one major change: the Vikings have new faces in the quarterback position. They picked up Kirk Cousins to take the number one spot, and Trevor Siemian as a back up. Case Keenum, star quarterback of 2017, left for the Denver Broncos. Not to fear: Cousins’ stats float high in the league, with 4,093 passing yards and 27 touchdowns last season. He broke 4,000 in passing yards and 25 touchdowns for the last three seasons. Not a bad trade up AT ALL!
The Vikings also have new spice to keep their defense fire burning high. They picked up defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson earlier this year. He started his career as 2013 Rookie of the Year, but has not performed well these past two seasons. However, preseason shows him gelling with his Vikings teammates, learning the game plan and getting ready to remind us of earlier career prowess.
Defense goes deeper
If I were to pick a non-traditional Super Bowl run, the Vikings have my vote.
Unbelievably, this number one defense outdoes itself. Hot off the presses, the Vikings just picked up free-agent safety George Iloka. The Cincinnati Bengals released Iloka a few days ago, giving Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer the chance to work with his former player (where Zimmer was defensive coordinator).
Not to snub the already amazing defense, returning to the roster are cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who went All-Pro for last season for the first time; cornerback Trae Waynes who topped his stats in 2017 with 65 tackles; nickel cornerback Terence Newman, who is covering the spot as a 16-year veteran in the NFL; safety Harrison Smith who also had his first All-Pro honor in 2017; and safety Andrew Sendejo; among others.
The Vikings continue to develop a younger defense as well. Third-season cornerback Mackensie Alexander has growth in his future, notwithstanding his ankle injury suffered during the Vikings’ preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thankfully, first-round draft pick cornerback Mike Hughes shows he can be counted on in the secondary, with solid preseason contributions.
With very little change, except good ones, from last year, this tight-knit defense will be tough to penetrate.
If I were to pick a non-traditional Super Bowl run, the Vikings have my vote. Cousins will shine with this team and under the tutelage of DeFilippo, who doesn’t forget his quarterbacks even as he oversees the whole offense. And, the defense just keeps doing its thing.
Below is the Vikings’ schedule for 2018:
Week 1: Sept. 9 vs. San Francisco 49ers*
Last preseason, the Vikings barely squeaked a win against the 49ers. Not so this game; expect this season opener home game to be an offensive blowout.
Week 2: Sept. 16 at Green Bay Packers*
The Vikings comfortably handled the Packers in their two match-ups last season. This game is no different.
Week 3: Sept. 23 vs. Buffalo Bills*
The Bills’ offense won’t move past the Vikings’ defense. Not one bit.
Week 4: Sept. 27 at LA Rams*
Despite what appears to be a fairly balanced face off, the Vikings took wins in the last three head-to-heads. They are on a roll.
Week 5: Oct. 7 at Philadelphia Eagles*
The big loss in last season’s NFC Championship behind them, the Vikings have it all put together for this game.
Week 6: Oct. 14 vs. Arizona Cardinals*
This is a game of defense. The problem for the Cardinals is that their offense goes nowhere.
Week 7: Oct. 21 at New York Jets*
Let’s just accept reality.
Week 8: Oct. 28 vs. New Orleans Saints*
This will be a hot game to watch. The Vikings took wins in last season’s regular and postseason games. The Saints may be building stronger, but there is something just too hot about the Vikings’ offensive mojo.
Week 9: Nov. 4 vs. Detroit Lions*
These teams traded wins last season. I don’t see the Vikings being as generous this season with Cousins and DeFilippo on board.
Week 10: Bye Week
Week 11: Nov. 18 at Chicago Bears*
Sorry Bears fans. That’s all that can be said.
Week 12: Nov. 25 vs. Green Bay Packers*
Even with much of the season under their belts, the Packers still can’t get past the Vikings.
Week 13: Dec. 2 at New England Patriots
I am excited for this game. If you don’t watch much, watch this one. The Pats have taken the win at the last three face offs. They seem to know the Vikings defense but manage only a tight win this time.
Week 14: Dec. 10 at Seattle Seahawks*
The last two meetings between these teams happened in preseason, so not much of a story. Simply, the Vikings are a stronger team this season.
Week 15: Dec. 16 vs. Miami Dolphins*
Home field advantage. Better offense. Better defense. We are done here.
Week 16: Dec. 23 at Detroit Lions*
See Week 9. Nothing has changed, except the Vikings are further into a golden season.
Week 17: Dec. 30 vs. Chicago Bears*
I hate ending on a sad note. So, let’s just say the Vikings earn this one.
TOTAL PREDICTED WINS: 15