Tag Archives: Minnesota Vikings

Still Snakebitten

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At the conclusion of Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977, little did the Minnesota Vikings know what was waiting for them. The 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders marked the Vikings fourth Super Bowl loss in eight years with each defeat being more painful than the previous one. By this time the Vikings were an aging team with a core that included future Hall of Famers such as quarterback Fran Tarkenton and defensive tackle Alan Page. That era of Vikings football would be remembered for producing quality teams who couldn’t win it all. However since then the Vikings would love to have that problem.

Since that time the Vikings have never been able to get back to the Super Bowl as they’ve been denied a trip back to the big game in five NFC Championship Game appearances. In 1977, the Vikings were no match for the precision of the Dallas Cowboys who won 23-6. In 1987, Minnesota was five yards away from a potential game-tying touchdown against the Washington Redskins when running back Darrin Nelson dropped an intended pass. In 1998, the Vikes were 15-1 and appeared to be destined for a Super Bowl Championship. But at home in the NFC Championship Game, kicker Gary Anderson who hadn’t missed a field goal or extra point all season long failed to connect on a 38-yard field late in the fourth quarter which would have sealed a win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons would score a touchdown to tie the game at 27, and subsequently win in overtime on a 38-yard field goal from Morten Andersen to send the Vikings home heartbroken. Two years later the Vikes made it back to the NFC Championship Game where they appeared to be the better team against the New York Giants. However the Giants would win the opening kickoff and march down the field on a touchdown and never look back as they won 41-0. In 2009, the Vikings would once again make the NFC Championship Game; this time as they were led by former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and running back sensation Adrian Peterson as this appeared to be their year. And with the game tied at 28 late in the fourth quarter, Minnesota had a chance to win. However with the Vikings on the edge of field-goal range, Favre was intercepted by New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracey Porter. The game would go to overtime and after the Saints won the coin toss, they marched down the field as their kicker Garrett Hartley would connect on a 40-yard field goal which once again denied the Vikings a chance to play in the Super Bowl.

But all of the Vikings heartache hasn’t necessarily been saved for the NFC Championship Game. In 2003, Minnesota began the season with a record of 6-0, however they would fail to make the playoffs as that year will always be remembered by them allowing the Arizona Cardinals to complete a touchdown pass on 4th and 25 to defeat them in Week 17. During the 2015 NFC Wild Card Game, the Vikes welcomed the Seattle Seahawks to town with a game-time temperature of minus-six at TCF Bank Stadium. Late in the contest the Vikings were trailing 10-9, but they would have a chance to win. However kicker Blair Walsh would miss a 27-yard field goal. And how could we forget about last season when there was a consensus that the Vikings could make the Super Bowl. But late in training camp, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL and this team never recovered.

Since the Vikings lost to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, they have failed to win a playoff game and in the process they’ve wasted to play making ability of Peterson.

Adrian Peterson

Aside from being of the better players of this era, Peterson is arguably one of the better running backs in National Football League history. Through ten seasons in the NFL, Peterson’s 11,747 career rushing yards are 16th all-time, while his 97 rushing touchdowns are tenth. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, while he was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007. But what solidified Peterson’s legacy was in 2012 when he gained 2,097 rushing yards after suffering a torn ACL in the previous season. However Peterson isn’t immune to age, or the NFL’s salary cap crunch catching up to him as he was limited to just three games last season, and thus the Vikings weren’t willing to pick up the $18 million option for the 31-year old running back heading into the 2017 campaign. There is still the possibility that Peterson could return to Minnesota on a reduced salary. However I see Peterson going to a team that’ll give him a chance to win the Super Bowl, which would lead a huge hole for the Vikings to have to fill.

Mike Zimmer

The Vikings had a championship defense last year under head coach Mike Zimmer, but they could not win games without a consistent offense which could see them take a turn for the worse during the upcoming season.

Aside from potentially losing Peterson, the Vikings have questions at the quarterback position once again which could cast doubt over the upcoming National Football League season before it starts. It’s not a guarantee that Bridgewater will be ready when the regular season rolls around. And even though that quarterback Sam Bradford who was acquired by the Vikings last year from the Philadelphia Eagles was able to complete 71.6% of his passes while only throwing 5 interceptions in Bridgewater’s place, he isn’t a signal caller that you envision ultimately being able to lead Minnesota to a Super Bowl Title as he has never appeared in the postseason.

Sam Bradford

The Vikings were desperate for a quarterback last year and thus they surrendered a first and fourth-round pick in the upcoming National Football League Draft to the Eagles in order to obtain Bradford which could hurt them this April when the league’s selection process rolls around. The Vikings want to compete, but with questions at the quarterback position, along with having a tough chore in potentially replacing Peterson, the term rebuilding might have to be thrown around with this franchise that has been so close in the past to glory, only to always fall short.

And with U.S. Bank Stadium set to host Super Bowl 52 next February, I will go out on a limb and state that the National Football League’s streak of the host team not making it to the big game will remain in tact.

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2016 Week 16 NFL Picks

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The New England Patriots can see the finish line in regards to getting home-field advantage in the playoffs.

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2016 Week 9 NFL Picks

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After starring for the Ohio State Buckeyes, running back Ezekiel makes his return to the State of Ohio, but now he is shining for the Dallas Cowboys?

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2016 Week 8 NFL Picks

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Will Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders be able to make it consecutive wins in the State of Florida?

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2016 Week 2 NFL Picks

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Will it be the good Andy Dalton or the bad Andy Dalton when the Cincinnati Bengals clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

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2016-2017 NFL Playoff Projections

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AFC

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. New England Patriots

3. Oakland Raiders

4. Indianapolis Colts

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. Baltimore Ravens

AFC Wild Card Round

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts

As dysfunctional as the Cincinnati Bengals are, not even they can lose in the Wild Card round in six consecutive years; especially since they are much better than the Indianapolis Colts.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Oakland Raiders

The fans in the Bay Area have waited a very long time to see an Oakland Raiders playoff game and they wont be disappointed.

AFC Divisional Playoffs

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bengals will finally be happy to get the playoff monkey off of their backs, but their big brothers from the AFC North in the Pittsburgh Steelers want to show them that they are still in charge.

Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots

The Raiders are happy to win a playoff game, and the battle tested New England Patriots will be too much for them.

AFC Championship Game

New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been on a mission to put “Deflategate” behind him and get back to the Super Bowl.

NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks

2. Green Bay Packers

3. Carolina Panthers

4. Dallas Cowboys

5. Arizona Cardinals

6. Minnesota Vikings

NFC Wild Card Round

Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers

The road to a consecutive Super Bowl berth for the Carolina Panthers begins with a home victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Arizona Cardinals could be a team on a mission as they steamroll the Dallas Cowboys.

NFC Divisional Playoffs

Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers

In a battle of MVP quarterbacks in Cam Newton of the Panthers, and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, the legs of running back Eddie Lacy will lead Green Bay to the NFC Championship Game.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Cards-Seahawks rivalry is quickly becoming one of the best in the NFL. And for the Cardinals, they are definitely one team that isn’t afraid to travel to Seattle and seek a victory.

NFC Championship Game

Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers

With the frozen mystique of football in Green Bay being a thing of the past, the Cardinals have what it takes to get a victory there and reach the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history.

Super Bowl Bowl 51-NRG Stadium-Houston, Texas

New England Patriots vs. Arizona Cardinals

These two teams began the year against each other, and it’s only fitting that they’ll finish they year on the gridiron. But the Patriots will find a way to win their fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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2016 NFC North Projections

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X-Green Bay Packers 11-5

The Green Bay Packers have been the model of consistency in the National Football League as their seven consecutive trips to the postseason are tied with the New England Patriots for the longest current streak in the league. For Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, the last two Januarys have ended in heartbreaking losses on the road against teams from the NFC West. In January 2015, the NFC Championship Game saw the Packers in control for the majority of the game until the very end when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks. And this past January saw the Packers scrap and claw to force overtime against the Arizona Cardinals before coming apart at the seams during the extra frame. Now the Packers are looking to put all of the playoff disappointment of the recent years behind them and get back to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers

Luckily for the Packers, they still have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Rodgers is a two-time National Football League MVP that is one of the best signal callers in the business. But recently Rodgers ability has masked some of the Packers flaws on offense which can no longer be the case if Green Bay wants to get back to the Super Bowl.

Last year weight issues plagued running back Eddie Lacy as he is an important part of the Packers offense. Lacy only gained 758 rushing yards as he drew the ire of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy due to his conditioning. This off-season has seen Lacy dedicate himself to getting in better shape, and the slimmed down running back should become a bigger contributor in Green Bay’s offense.

 

Rodgers had to go all of 2015 without the services of wide receiver Jordy Nelson who has been his most reliable pass catcher. Nelson tore his ACL last summer, and although that he is back on the Packers roster, it is going to take him some time to regain the form that he had in 2014 when he tallied 1,519 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. In the Packers receiving corps, they also have Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, and Davante Adams, but somebody needs to step up from this trio and become more consistent.

The Packers offensive line isn’t full of Pro Bowlers or household names, but they have been together for awhile. However Rodgers was sacked 46 times last year which isn’t going to cut it in 2016 if Green Bay wants to win the NFC North.

For Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, he must find a way to get more usage of outside linebacker Clay Matthews as a pass rusher. In 2014, injuries to the Packers defense forced Matthews to play inside linebacker. Matthews tends to line up at different spots defensively for Green Bay, but he is a better player as an outside linebacker. The Packers used a fourth-round draft pick on inside linebacker Blake Martinez this past April, and if he is ready to fill Green Bay’s void at that position, Matthews should be able to see more time as a pass rusher. Outside linebacker Julius Peppers is 36-years of age, but he still can put plenty of fear into opposing quarterbacks. Peppers is a freak of nature and there is a strong possibility that when this season is over, he will be in the top-five on the National Football League’s all-time list for sacks.

There is plenty of potential for the Packers in their secondary, but it is just a matter of whether or not that cornerbacks Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, along with free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and strong safety Morgan Burnett will come to play on a weekly basis.

Kicker Mason Crosby can be shaky at times on field goals, but he is still a player that McCarthy relies on, while punter Tim Masthay has the strong leg needed for when the temperature drops during the Wisconsin winter.

The Packers have a chance to set the tone for themselves early as three of their first six games will come against the foes from the NFC North as they know that they must scrap and claw to win this division.

Y-Minnesota Vikings 11-5

 

Last year saw everything beginning to come together for the Minnesota Vikings as they won the NFC North for the first time since 2009, but they suffered a heart breaking loss in the NFC Wild Card Game to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings are hopeful that they can learn from that experience as they look to make it consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 2009 as they are set to begin life in their new home of U.S. Bank Stadium in Downtown Minneapolis.

Mike Zimmer

For Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer it has not taken him that long to make Minnesota a contender once again as he has two years under his belt. Zimmer has always preached having a strong defense, while he also has an offense that can take care of the football.

Running back Adrian Peterson is set to begin his tenth season in the National Football League. But unlike most 31-year old running backs, Peterson isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Peterson gained 1,485 yards last year, however he led the league in carries with 327 as it marked the fourth time in his career that toted the rock at least 300 times in a campaign. Peterson is still extremely vital to the Vikings offense as his running ability sets up the pass. And as Peterson will look to keep his legs churning, another 1,000-yard campaign on the ground will put him in the top 10 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

But as Peterson is still important to the Vikings offense, is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ready to take the next step? From the early stages of Bridgewater’s National Football League career, he doesn’t appear to be a quarterback that is going to be hot commodity in fantasy football, but he has been accurate to the tune of completing 65.3% of his passes last season. However Minnesota’s passing offense was 31st in the NFL in 2015 as they have been know to shy away from taking chances down the field which is something that must change if the Vikings want to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And that will come down to whether or not that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turnver is ready to take the kid gloves off of his young quarterback.

Stefon Diggs

Last year as a rookie, wide receiver Stefon Diggs showed promise as he averaged 13.8 yards per catch, but he will need to develop more consistency with Bridgewater. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is still a very dependable pass catcher at his position while the Vikings have high hopes for rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

But make no mistake about it that Minnesota’s team has a blue-collar feel to it which starts with their defense. Defensively the Vikings were 13th in total defense as they have a unit that can get after opponents.

The Vikings defensive line might not be “The Purple People Eaters” of the 1970’s, but they can still bring the noise. The combination of defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, along with defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd have the potential to combine for 25 sacks, while at least one member of the quartet could end up in the Pro Bowl.

Chad Greenway

Minnesota has solid corner linebackers in Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway, but their secondary is littered with play makers such as free safety Harrison Smith which is important in a division such as the NFC North that has Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

Since joining the Vikings in 2012, kicker Blair Walsh has been one of the more accurate kickers in the National Football League, but he must put last year’s meltdown in the playoffs behind him. Last year Walsh had a field goal percentage of 87.2 which included making six kicks from beyond 50 yards and his strong right leg will have an impact on the upcoming season for the Vikings.

It won’t take us long to see if the Vikings are for real as in Week 2 they will host the Packers which will be followed by a trip to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers who are the defending NFC Champions. But comes Christmas, Minnesota should still have plenty to play for.

Chicago Bears 9-7

2015 was an up and down year for the Chicago Bears as they finished with a record of 6-10. It marked the fifth consecutive season in which the Bears failed to qualify for the postseason which is their longest stretch since 1995-2000. And during the Bears current streak, they have employed three different head coaches over that stretch. But however the Bears appear to be committed to their current head coach in John Fox. Fox is coming off of his first year in Chicago and he knows a thing or two about turning around struggling franchises from his previous work as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos respectively.

Jay Cutler

After leading the National Football League in interceptions in 2014 with 18, quarterback Jay Cutler threw just 11 in 2015. Cutler improved under offensive coordinator Adam Gase last year. But Gase is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Dowell Loggains was the Bears quarterbacks coach last year and he will now take over the play calling duties with Gase being in Miami and he must continue to build off of what Chicago’s former offensive coordinator was able to accomplish with Cutler last season.

What helped Cutler improve as a quarterback in 2015 was the fact that he began to trust throwing the football to his running backs as opposed to simply trying to force his passes down the field. Last year Bears running backs accounted for nearly 70 receptions and Jeremy Langford could once have a big impact in Chicago.

Jeremy Langford

After the Bears parted with longtime running back Matt Forte this off-season, Langford should take a bigger role in Chicago’s offense this year. Langford only averaged 3.6 yards per carry as a rookie in 2015, but I expect him to be a guy that gets at least 20 carries per game, and he can also be a solid contributor on swing and screen passes.

Kevin White

Last year saw the Bears use a first-round pick on wide receiver Kevin White, but a shin injury prevented him from taking the field. Now 2016 will be White’s de facto rookie season as he theoretically gives the Bears another first-round pick this season. White’s presence should take some of the pressure off of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as the Bears look to open up the passing game some more.

As Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio are in their second year with the Bears, they’ve gone about putting more play makers on that side of the football. The Bears have high hopes for outside linebacker Leonard Floyd who was their first-round pick this past spring. At 6’6″, 240 lbs., Floyd has a slender build, but the Bears are optimistic that he will have a smooth transition to the National Football League. The Bears also have outside linebackers that can rush the passer in Willie Young and Lamarr Houston as this is a part of their arsenal that will be needed as they look to compete with the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

The Bears first six opponents this season did not make the playoffs last year, and a quick start could be just what the doctor ordered as they look to sneak up on the Packers and Vikings in the NFC North.

Detroit Lions 6-10

Last year was an up and down one for the Detroit Lions as they began the season with a record of 0-5 only to rebound and finish 7-9. Assistant coaches were dropping like flies while general manager Martin Mayhew was also relieved of his duties and replaced by Bob Quinn. But somehow Jim Caldwell was able to maintain his post as the Lions head coach. And although that Caldwell was able to avoid the chopping block this past January, he is still on the hot seat and he’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get the Lions back to the postseason after missing out on it in 2015.

It is going to be difficult for the Lions to replace the contributions of wide receiver Calvin Johnson who decided to retire after nine seasons in the National Football League as his presence alone caused matchup issues for opposing defenses. And in Johnson’s final season with the Lions, he led the team in receptions (88), receiving yards (1,214), and touchdowns (9) as quarterback Matthew Stafford is going to now have to rely on committee of wide receivers where nobody stands out.

One of the Lions biggest issues in 2015 was their inability to run the football. The Lions were last in the National Football League in rushing with rookie running back Ameer Abdullah being their leading rusher with just 597 yards. Abdullah’s struggles summed up the Lions issues on offense which began with their offensive line. The Lions were never able to get the right combination on their offensive line which made their offense one dimensional, while Stafford was running for his life in the pocket.

Ezekiel Ansah

Defensively the Lions do have a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in defensive end Ziggy Ansah who had 14.5 sacks last year, but overall this is a unit that lacks play makers as they could once again be fighting an uphill battle in the NFC North.

Three of the Lions first four games here in 2016 will be on the road, with two of those contests coming against NFC North foes in the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears as another slow start will get the folks in Motown gearing up to run Caldwell out of town.

X-Division Winner

Y-Clinched Wild Card

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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