We are in football season people! Finally, after months of waiting and speculation, it is upon us! With a few days to go let us have one more look at what to expect from the purple and gold before their first snap of the season.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Preview
Lets face it, when you have to play Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit twice a season, every season is going to be tough (unless Detroit fall back to their old losing ways). Add to this tough division schedule, games against New England, Carolina and an unenviable trip to New Orleans and you have brutal schedule for a team with a lot of unproven players.
When Vikings management named Matt Cassel as the team’s starting quarterback they surely had one eye on the schedule, and not wanting to give future starter Teddy Bridgewater a ‘baptism by fire.’ The defense will have a true test of its supposed improvement facing off against Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rogers all by week 5. If the team can show that they can be a match against these heavy hitters early, we could be looking at a surprise wildcard team.
Reasons to be Fearful
Moving on from the grueling schedule let us look at some of the issues that could see the team flounder.
This defense has had a major overhaul from the top down, gone are the likes of Kevin Williams, Jared Allen and Les Fraizer. In their place are Anthony Barr, Everson Griffin and Mike Zimmer. If all goes well, they could show a marked improvement from last season. Of course, it would not be hard for the unit to improve considering how bad the defense were last season. That said the new players will need time to build chemistry, and the reliance on youth will make or break this team. Gone are almost all the team leaders from last season on defense,while the lone survivor, Chad Greenway needs to show that he has recovered form or he too will be gone come February.
Injuries could once again be an issue for the Vikings. Key positions such as safety, tight end and running back are frightfully thin and the players there have shown to be injury prone. The likes of Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith are key players this year but were all out for several games last season with injury. If these starters go down the season could get ugly fast.
The Vikings are also breaking in a new coaching staff and while Mike Zimmer is a proven defensive guru, he is an unproven as a head coach. Zimmer has had to adapt to being less ‘hands on’ than he would like during training camp and game day. He also may be over reliant on offensive coordinator Norv Turner, as when asked in press conferences about the offense he routinely will just say ‘ask Norv’ instead of addressing the question himself.
Reasons to be Cheerful
A new coaching staff. Yes it was listed as a reason to be fearful, but let’s be honest; the game plan from last season was so basic a kid with a crayon could have done a better job! Turner is known for his imaginative offensive game plans and Zimmer has run some of the toughest and most aggressive defenses in the league. The team showed this during pre-season, even without Adrian Peterson, that they managed to put points on the board. The defense was also impressive at getting pressure on the opposition’s quarterbacks. The new coaches might take time to settle in, but in the long run they are a big improvement over last year’s staff.
The offense looks good early. The signing of Kyle Rudolph to a long term deal this summer highlighted how impressive this team can be if they get the right quarterback play. Adrian Peterson has ran against more 8 man defensive boxes than any other running back in the league and he has still been nearly unstoppable. The new offensive game plan should spread the ball around and Matt Cassel may just be competent enough to run it fully until Bridgewater is ready. Cordarrelle Patterson has been tipped by many to have a break out season and Gregg Jennings is ‘always open’ if some analysts are to be believed.
This team is young, the fifth youngest in the league and with it they have some very talented players, Anthony Barr has progressed faster at strong side linebacker than was expected and will start this Sunday. Patterson was so impressive on special teams last season that teams stopped kicking to him. Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd have improved dramatically from their first year and both could have impressive seasons.
Enough! Tell Me About Teddy
Yes, Bridgewater will start the season on the bench, and barring an injury or appalling play on Matt Cassel’s part he could be there for a long time. As long as the Vikings remain in playoff contention they will be afraid of having the quarterback carousel they had last season. In all likelihood the earliest we could see Bridgewater start would be after the week 10 bye.
I know this is pointless, as teams will have catastrophic injuries or just won’t measure up. You can even look at the Vikings history where they went from NFC Championship game to last in the division in the Brett Favre years. Not many have the Vikings having a good season, organizations such as ESPN and betting lines in Las Vegas have them getting 4 wins…. Pessimists! I think this team is capable of putting a more respectable season together. I would be very pleased with an 8-8 season or even a sneaky wildcard place with a bit of luck. As a realist though I would expect a 7-9 season putting the team on the right track to make a run deep into the playoffs the following season.
Bring on the football!
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