The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the stacked but increasingly desperate Minnesota Vikings.
2017 in a nutshell: Their third-string quarterback shocks the world with a superb season and the defense is completely dominant in a 13-3 campaign, but they get destroyed by the Eagles one game short of what would’ve been a Super Bowl at home.
What’s different: That surprise quarterback, Case Keenum, is gone, but he’s been replaced by the comically well-paid Kirk Cousins. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur left to coach the Giants and has been replaced by former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. Also, running back Dalvin Cook is healthy now.
Why they could be awesome: On paper, they look better than they did last season.
Why they could suck: Cousins could theoretically bust, but only a major rash of injuries could keep the Vikings out of contention in 2018.
Major additions: Cousins, Cook, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, center Brett Jones, guard Tom Compton, first-round rookie cornerback Mike Hughes, safety George Iloka.
Major losses: Keenum, quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford, running back Jerick McKinnon.
Breakout watch: Cook averaged a stellar 4.8 yards per carry and accumulated 444 scrimmage yards in four games before a torn ACL ended his rookie season in 2017. He’s apparently healthy now, and the electric Florida State product should be in for a sick age-23 campaign.
Position to watch: The offensive line has been hit hard by injuries, and it wasn’t a particularly strong unit to begin with. Young center Pat Elflein is likely to miss time and guard Nick Easton is on injured reserve, leaving the newbie Jones, Compton, and fourth-year reserve Rashod Hill to fight for starting spots alongside Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Cousins, Cook, and Co. need that line to hold up.
Prediction: They’ll have trouble with Green Bay and even Detroit and Chicago in one of the league’s strongest and most improved divisions, but it’s hard to imagine they won’t have a shot in January.
12-4, 1st place in the NFC North