Optimism was running high in the Twin Cities last year after the Minnesota Vikings roared out to a 5-0 start. Unfortunately, the men in purple went on to lose 8 of their next 11 games to miss the NFL playoffs one season after ending a three-year postseason drought.
2016 was a strange season for the Vikings. Third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was starting to put it all together when a horrific training camp knee injury ended his season and possibly his career.
Panicked and in a bind, the organization overpaid to land Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford who went on to start fifteen games for the Vikes. The fact that Bradford managed to stay on the field for the second consecutive year after his own injury problems was a big positive for Minnesota.
This season, Bradford will once again be the starter but he’s not the type of quarterback who can win games on his own, he is more of the dreaded “game manager” who relies on nickel and dime plays rather than downfield strikes.
His stats were decent enough, 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only five interceptions but he seems better suited for a team with a good ground game. Unfortunately, that didn’t describe the Vikings last year as they finished dead last in NFL rushing yards.
It was a combination of poor offensive line play as well as an injury to aging former star Adrian Peterson but head coach Mike Zimmer has emphasized the importance of a strong ground attack.
That could be the case in 2017 after the Vikings signed former Oakland Raider Latavius Murray in free agency and for good measure, drafted Florida State stud Dalvin Cook in the second round this year. By all appearances, they will team for a potent one-two punch.
Bradford’s receivers are underwhelming with tight end Kyle Rudolph being the most reliable weapon, not a good thing. The actual wideouts are Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and a bunch of guys who are even less known along with 2016 draft bust Laquon Treadwell. This is an area that will need to be addressed before Minnesota can take the next step but it’s going to have to wait until the offseason.
The Vikings do happen to have a very good defense which is a big help in a division where they have to face Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford twice a year.
In 2016, Minnesota ranked third overall in total defense, fifth in sacks and sixth in points allowed. While it’s not the second coming of the “Purple People Eaters” this unit is solid.
With Zimmer being a defensive minded coach, there is no reason to believe that the Vikings won’t be even better this year given that the running game has vastly improved and will be able to control the clock.
So, what does it all mean?
The Vikings are a playoff contender, especially in a division that is one injury to a star quarterback away from a being wide open race.
Look for the team to feature a ball control scheme that minimizes Sam Bradford’s faults and plays to his strengths while relying on sound play from the defense to win games.