The purpose of these previews is to provide a quick and dirty look at what the outlook is for each NFL team in 2019 according to my own philosophies and hot takes when it comes to pro football. That said, let’s take a quick report card look at where we came from, what’s expected, and the logic that drives my principles when evaluating NFL teams.
|Division Odds (Moneyline)||:||+220|
|2018 Rank Rushing Yds/Gm||:||30|
|2018 Rank Against the Run||:||14|
|2018 Rank Against the Pass||:||3|
|Returning Starters Offense||:||9|
|Returning Starters Defense||:||10|
You may notice passing rankings are not included in my cute little NFL team report card. The reason for that is without at least one of, a top-10 ranked running game or top-10 defense, it generally does not matter how good your quarterback is. If you don’t believe me, read this genius’s irrefutable thorough analysis of elite quarterbacks, and how these two attributes correlate to their ability to win anything of note.
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Now that you’re fully indoctrinated into my non-quarterback driven league cult, let’s do a quick run down of Minnesota’s significant roster takeaways for this season.
Impact Additions – Acquisitions that are projected to start or have major rotational roles in 2019
|4: G Josh Kline, DT Stephen Shamar, C Garrett Bradbury, TE Irv Smith Jr.|
Impact Losses – Departures that had started or had major rotational roles last season
|3: DT Sheldon Richardson, RB Latavius Murray, S Andrew Sendejo|
Difference Makers – Players who are widely considered among the best at their position heading into 2019
|8: WR Adam Thielen, WR Stefon Diggs, DE Everson Griffen, DE Danielle Hunter, DT Linval Joseph, LB Anthony Barr, S Harrison Smith, CB Xavier Rhodes|
Potential Breakout Candidates – Second or third year players that are logical selections to make “the leap” in the upcoming season based on past performance
|1: RB Dalvin Cook|
How it could work
In 2017, Pat Shurmur had the Vikings offense humming on ground and in the air. Combined with an elite defense, the balance of the offense that ranked in the top third in both, the run and the pass, Minnesota got to their first NFC title game since 2010. Ultimately, these two plays likely forced head coach Mike Zimmer to move on from Case Keenum, while Pat Shurmer took his dream job of coaching Eli in the twilight of the mouth breather’s career.
Enter in the $84 million answer: Kirk Cousins. He, and replacement offensive coordinator and alleged “quarterback whisperer”, John DeFilippo were what Zimmer was given to help not waste the few precious remaining years of his Super Bowl caliber defense.
Year one didn’t go so hot. Minnesota went from an NFL ranked 7th in rushing yards per game for 2017, all the way to 30th last season. Zimmer was so frustrated with the offense, DeFilippo was gone before season’s end. Along with Everson Griffen’s absence, the result was a long, disappointing 8-7-1 record sans the playoffs for phase one of the Cousins era.
Zimmer knows he’s likely got two more years to get to a Super Bowl before ownership decides he’s the problem. Accordingly, he swiftly responded in the offseason to 2018’s deficiencies.
Minnesota’s top three picks in April’s draft came on the offense. This includes projected starting center, Garret Bradbury in round one. And some much needed insurance on Dalvin Cook in the third round, Alexander Mattison.
Why it wouldn’t work
Where it gets even more interesting is Zimmer bringing in a baby sitter for interim-turned-permanent offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, by hiring NFL Gary Kubiak to be the “offensive advisor”. Not exactly the vote of confidence you’re hoping for if you’re Stefanski, but the right thing to do if you’re Zimmer.
The defense still has the core that has made it a top-5 unit in terms of yards allowed per game the past three years. So, Zimmer is smart to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the other side of the ball.
But, more than anything, the Vikings offensive success is reliant on a healthy Dalvin Cook. He’s proven to be dynamic running and catching the ball at different times in his first two seasons. He definitely has the look of someone that has potential to be a difference maker at running back.
No Cook leading the way out of the backfield means no balance offensively to control the game or protect leads, more asked of Cousins (who, by the way, hasn’t exactly proven he’s up for that), and less time for Zimmer’s defense to rest up on the sidelines.
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That’s all it really comes down to for Minnesota. Get the big leap year out of Cook, and they’ll be right there competing in the North, and in a legit spot for a Super Bowl just like 2017.
Cook out or ineffective, they’ll be similar to last year. Clawing and scratching their way to .500 ball and a wildcard team at best.
Early indications are pointing towards, at the very least, some improvement ahead with Kubiak’s zone blocking philosophies in place. And, there isn’t much of a place for this team to go but up on, and off the field anyway.
The Everson Griffen story should be behind everyone. The rough transition of quarterback/OC has stabilized. And, by all accounts, Cook is healthy and, according to every fantasy article I’ve seen, primed for a breakout.
For Minnesota Fan, there are two choices: You have to believe either:
- That same team from 2017 is still here and just had a weird letdown year in 2018, or
- That NFC title blowout loss to Philly broke something in them that isn’t repairable
It’s a tough one, but my spidey sense tells me this group isn’t finished yet. The biggest issue for teams like them and the Panthers in their quest to return to the post season, is the competition in the NFC is stiffer than an adult function with name tags and no alcohol.
Oh what hell. I love Kirk because I’m a shameless Michigan St. homer. Over 8.5 wins and back to the playoffs for Minnesota.
Onto the NFC South starting next week.