2nd – Minnesota Vikings
Through the first two, things stay even with last year. The Minnesota Vikings’ 2019 was a poor showing of their true potential as they spent much of the season beating up on the bottom-feeders and struggling teams in the NFC. Wins against Atlanta, Oakland, Detroit, Washington, and Philadelphia did nothing to help further their team development; the Vikings still went 0-4 in the rest of their division games with their only truly strong performances still coming in losses to Kansas City and Seattle.
Like it or not, the Vikings’ offense still runs through Kirk Cousins. Whether or not that played a role in Stefon Diggs’ departure remains to be seen, but his absence now leaves a large hole across the field from Adam Thielen, who missed six games in 2019 with quad issues and had his worst season in five years.
Dalvin Cook exploded onto the scene as a true feature back, recording over 1,110 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding over 500 receiving yards. While his current holdout demands create a major issue for a team that hopes to be in the playoff hunt, many do not expect Cook to be absent from camp, and his presence lifts the offense on its own merits.
While the running back depth and consistency from Cousins (at least statistically) are considered locks going into this season, the team has a new question to answer: who is going to soak up the 94 targets that went to Diggs? A healthy return to form for Thielen would be a bright point, but the expectation will be for first-round pick Justin Jefferson to step up and contribute in a major way as a rookie. The depth chart after Jefferson is full of longtime backups and special teamers, so his rapid development will be necessary for a successful season.
The Vikings have an early schedule that may favor them; they get to face Packers, Titans, and Falcons at home, and road games against Houston and Indianapolis in between are very winnable. Look to November and December as a key stretch for the Vikings; they face Chicago twice and play Jacksonville and Carolina at home, and with a season-ending contest against Detroit, half of the team’s wins could come in the second half of the season.
Official Prediction: 10-6