With that in mind, let’s get this week’s enemy out of the way in a quick preview.
The Vikings are one of the most talented teams in the NFL, bar none. New quarterback Kirk Cousins has two top wideouts in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at his disposal creating a large margin for error. Cousins can be okay if given a great receiving corps, but his accuracy on shot plays is bad and he lacks the mobility and play under pressure that Case Keenum provided last year.
That’s not a good thing because the Vikings’ offensive line has been beaten struck with injuries. Left guard Nick Easton is out for the season, and center Pat Elflein, the best player on the line, has no timetable for his return. The decrease in quality on the offensive line will make running more challenging for Dalvin Cook—returning from an ACL injury suffered in the first quarter of his rookie season—but Cook is a massive upgrade over Latavius Murray thanks to a more explosive skill set.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are both mismatches. They can separate anywhere on the field and create yards after the catch, can burn man coverage on a variety of routes, and possess incredible ball skills and adjustments. Kyle Rudolph, to a lesser extent, does this as well, and was more consistent in 2017. Lacquon Treadwell has been a bust so far, so Kendall Wright was signed to be the Vikings’ third receiver.
The defense needs little introduction. Everson Griffen’s timing on the snap is near flawless, and he also displays a powerful spin, strength, speed, and bend. Danielle Hunter has become a terrific young pass rusher, acting like a freight train as the left defensive end. Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson are one of the best defensive tackle tandems in football, and Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are studs at linebacker. Trae Waynes is the weak link of the defense, but even he’s developed into a decent player. Harrison Smith just might be the best safety in football, Andrew Sendejo is underrated, Xavier Rhodes is one of the best corners in football, and Mike Hughes has a chance to become the next great corner.
John DeFlippio has shoes to fill as he is replacing Giants coach Pat Shurmur as the offensive coordinator. Shurmur created quarterback friendly environments with his route combinations in 2017, so DeFlippio will need to make sure he doesn’t turn into Steve Sarkisian in 2018. Mike Zimmer is one of the best defensive minds in the game; His use of double A-gap blitzes has enhanced a defense loaded in pass rushers.
I’m not sure the Vikings can go 13-3 again; I feel like Kirk Cousins might hold them back, especially with the offensive line missing a couple of key pieces. But they should still be a playoff team in 2018, especially with the loaded defense, the best wide receiver duo in football, and a stud young running back returning.