The Minnesota Vikings are returning a largely similar roster to the one they had a season ago in 2021. Mike Zimmer remains as the head coach and Kirk Cousins is entering his fourth year with the franchise. There is a ton of hype surrounding second-year wideout, Justin Jefferson, especially after he broke the rookie receiving yards record in 2020.
As for the defense, Zimmer is hoping to get a much better performance from his group after producing the sixth-worst defense in yards allowed per game last season. Zimmer would prefer to run the ball often with Dalvin Cook and play stifling defense instead of relying on Cousins to carry the offense.
Ahead of the start of the regular season, here are five bold predictions for the Vikings in 2021.
5. Dalvin Cook Will Start In 15+ Games
Ever since Cook entered the NFL in 2017 as a second-round pick out of Florida State, he’s been unable to remain healthy for an entire season. Altogether, the former Seminole has missed a combined 21 games in his first four seasons in the league.
Despite missing time with injuries, Cook has posted back-to-back 1,000+ yard seasons and has accumulated 30 total touchdowns in the past two years. Even with an added game to the schedule, for the first time in his career, Cook will start in 15+ games for the Vikings in 2021.
4. Adam Thielen Leads The Team In Receiving Touchdowns Again
The emergence of Jefferson as a rookie was a sight to behold for fans of the NFL. Jefferson proved that he’s an up-and-coming star at the wide receiver position, recording 88 receptions, 1,400 yards, and seven touchdowns in 2020. But it was Adam Thielen, the wily veteran, that would be Cousins’ favorite option to target for passing touchdowns. Thielen concluded last season with a career-best 14 receiving touchdowns.
Despite Jefferson showing that he has the ability to become one of the best wide receivers in the league, Thielen will lead the Vikings in receiving touchdowns once again, partly due to the lack of pass-catching options that Minnesota has.
3. Irv Smith Jr. Finishes Third In Receptions On The Vikings
Without a doubt, it’s hard to envision anyone catching more passes than Jefferson and Thielen in Minnesota’s passing attack. Cook should have a heavy workload as a receiver, but I don’t believe he finishes third on the team in receptions.
Instead, I believe Irv Smith Jr. will show that he’s ready to absorb a larger role, earning a chance to become the No. 3 option for Cousins. Smith is an athletic tight end that has been receiving buzz in training camp for the improvements he’s made entering his third year with the Vikings.
2. Kirk Cousins Is Benched For Kellen Mond At Some Point
It just seems like Zimmer and Cousins aren’t on the same page despite the organization giving Cousins an extension before last season. Cousins isn’t particularly a guy I’d want as my franchise quarterback, but Zimmer is seemingly stuck with him for the time being.
When it comes to high-pressure situations or game-deciding moments, Cousins crumbles. With Zimmer wanting to turn things around in Minnesota, rookie Kellen Mond will replace Cousins at some point in the season, whether it be for just a game or a drive.
1. Vikings Produce A Top 10 Defense
The defense of the Vikings was a complete mess a season ago, surrendering the sixth-most yards per game. Minnesota’s defense also permitted the fourth-most points per game, which is uncharacteristic for a Zimmer-led defense.
Following last year’s dismal showing from their defense, the Vikings brought in Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland to improve the secondary. Also, Minnesota recently reunited with Everson Griffen in hopes he can provide a spark off of the edge. Given the improvements the team made on defense, the Vikings return to being a top 10 defense in the NFL again in 2021.