The Minnesota Vikings put an end to the Green Bay Packers run of 4 straight NFC North titles. Doing so by going into Lambeau and defeating the Packers 20-13 in Week 17.
Minnesota’s 11-5 record was the third best in the NFC and a huge jump from 2014’s 7-win campaign. Unfortunately for the Vikings their regular season success didn’t carry over to the playoffs.
Minnesota suffered a heartbreaking 9-10 defeat at home to the Seahawks. Kicker Balir Walsh missed a chip-shot 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining. To his credit, it was absolutely freezing in that game. The wind chill at kickoff was around -25 degrees.
On the bright side, it looks as though the Vikings are poised to be a contender for several years. It’s amazing what head coach Mike Zimmer has been able to do in just two seasons with the team.
The big question now is whether or not they can hold off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers two straight seasons. While winning the North may prove difficult, the Vikings are expected to get back to the playoffs.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|WR Laquon Treadwell, CB Mackensie Alexander, OT Willie Beavers|
|OT Andre Smith, G Alex Boone, OLB Emmanuel Lamur, OLB Travis Lewis, S Michael Griffin|
|WR Mike Wallace, S Robert Blanton|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 9.15|
While Zimmer has worked wonders with the defense, the offense is still a work in progress. Last year the Vikings struggled at times to stay on the field. Ranking 3rd to last in yards/game at just 321.2.
A big part of that was the play of the offensive line. A unit Zimmer called out in the offseason. He also fired line coach Jeff Davidson and brought in Tony Sporano.
A coaching change can do wonders, but talent is what really makes all the difference. That’s why the Vikings made it a priority to upgrade the unit in the offseason. The big addition comes in free agent left guard Alex Boone. He’s got a nasty personality that Zimmer loves and the hope is that it spreads across the unit.
Minnesota also signed free agent right tackle Andre Smith from Cincinnati. Though it’s unclear if he will start or just be an insurance policy. The Vikings get back former starting right tackle Phil Loadholt, who missed all of last year.
Center John Sullivan also missed the entire 2015 campaign. He too will have to battle for his job, as veteran Joe Berger impressed last year. Michael Harris and Brandon Fusco will compete at right guard, while Matt Kalil returns at left tackle.
What’s amazing is Adrian Peterson still managed to lead the league in rushing. Peterson rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. While he turned 31 in the offseason, there’s little reason to doubt he has more left in the tank. Peterson is simply a freak of nature.
Teddy Bridgewater also impressed given how often he was running for his life. He completed 65.3% of his passes with just 9 interceptions. Though he did only have 14 touchdowns. With an improved o-line he could be poised for a breakout season.
Minnesota also added a new toy for Bridgewater in 1st round pick Laquon Treadwell. He’s the go-to possession receiver that has been missing in the offense. Treadwell will join Stefon Diggs and Jarius Wright, to form a young and talented group. This unit could be special if tight end Kyle Rudolph started playing up to his potential.
For those that don’t know, Zimmer is a defensive mastermind. So it’s no surprise how quickly he’s turned around the stop unit. Even with a struggling offense, they held opposing teams to just 18.9 ppg (5th).
The scary thing is they should be even better in 2016. All of the key players are back and several should improve with better health.
The strength of the defense is up front on the defensive line. Minnesota has two potential All-Pro tackles in Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd. As well as a legit pass rusher in end Everson Griffen. Veteran Brian Robison will start opposite of Griffen, at least for now. Robison could be pushed by Zach Moore, who had 6 sacks last year as a situational pass rusher.
The Vikings have another elite talent at linebacker in Anthony Barr. In just two seasons, he’s emerged as one of the better strong side backers in the game. The only problem has been inability to stay healthy. Eric Kendricks played well as a rookie at middle linebacker. Veteran Chad Greenway is on the decline and will retire after this year. He’s a great leader, but be more of a reserve this year. Minnesota brought in Emmanuel Lamur as insurance.
The Vikings have a couple more young stars in the secondary. Those being safety Harrison Smith and corner Xavier Rhodes. They also have a solid nickel corner in Captain Munnerlyn. 38-year-old veteran Terrance Newman is back to start opposite of Rhodes. Last year’s first round pick, Trae Waynes is ready to take over if needed. They also like their 2nd round pick this year of Mackensie Alexander.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC North
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
No longer can you just pencil in the Packers as the NFC North champions. Not only are they a threat to defend their division title, but a legit threat to win it all.
Last year they had to grind out wins with their running game and dominant defense. A recipe that we have seen work on multiple occasions in the NFL.
To take that next step, Bridgewater needs to have that breakout season. So far so good, but let’s not forget this is just his 3rd year in the league. That’s the only thing holding me back on the Vikings in 2016.
With that said, I still think they are one of the best teams in the NFC. I have them finishing 2nd in the North at 11-5 and that should be good enough to get into the playoffs. Just how far they go in the postseason will come down to how big a step Bridgewater takes this year.
NFC North Finish
Win Total Prediction
Vikings 10-Year Recap