After a disappointing result last season, a lot of expectations have been set this offseason by an increasingly impatient fanbase as management once again attempted to address the glaring issues at running back and offensive line. Although it might be the team’s only hope, its not realistic to count on Sam Bradford and the defense to once again carry this team all season.
Tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, the Minnesota Vikings kick off their 2017 campaign against the hated New Orleans Saints, led by Drew Brees and Vikings legend Adrian Peterson. Given the fact its a primetime game, AP returns to Minneapolis and the Vikings history with New Orleans, there will be a lot of media friendly storylines coming into tonight’s game.
Lets start with Vikings talkers.
After a solid preseason and stellar camp, all eyes are on Dalvin Cook to fill the void left by Adrian and use his diverse skillset to propel this offense to a level it needs to be at to actually compete, unlike the 17 points a game (or so) we put up last season. Tonight for the first time, Dalvin Cook will unleash his skills in a regular season game, a long awaited occurrence for Vikings fans and fantasy owners. It will also be interesting to see how veteran Jerick Mackinnon is used tonight. Also in the running to get some snaps is Latavius Murray who had 10 touchdowns for the Raiders last season.
Prediction: Cook gets 70 yards rushing and 40 receiving with 2 Touchdowns
For 3 seasons now, the o-line has been the must need issue to address in the offseason and we are 0 for 2 trying to solve the problem. After the performances I saw in this year’s preseason, I’m guessing we’ll be drafting a few linemen in 2018. More concerns arise with the line as new addition Riley Rieff struggles to stay healthy and the team cut Alex Boone, who was signed in free agency for 4 years just last season. We will pay his salary as he finishes out his contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Cutting Boone could mean 1 of 2 things. 1. It means he doesn’t fill well with a pass blocking line that plays better without him. 2. In more likely fashion, it means Boone was a bust of a pickup and this line is going to be even worse than last year or the year before, which is almost unfathomable to anyone who closely follows the Vikings.
Projected to start for the Vikings tonight:
LT- Riley Rieff (new to team)
LG- Nick Easton (new to position)
C- Pat Elflein (rookie)
RG- Joe Berger (new to position)
RT- Mike Remmers (new to team)
Virtually no familiarity with each other or their positions. It will take a miracle to find cohesion in this lineup.
Prediction: I’m guessing the line plays awful and Sam takes 6 or 7 sacks tonight.
Now for the Saints talkers:
We all know Adrian Peterson signed with the Saints in the offseason. New Orleans probably felt like they owed him one after he fumbled on the 1 yard line in the NFC title game. The same kind of thing just happened with Blair Walsh and the Seahawks (he made all his kicks against Green Bay in his Seattle debut). Now we’ll get to see how much talent Peterson has retained and what kind of role he’ll take in the Saints’ high powered offense. My guess is he’ll look more reminiscent of his performances last year than that of years past. This defense knows Peterson is one dimensional and knows how to stop him.
Prediction: AP gets 80 rushing yards and a touchdown
Saints Game Plan:
Often times to beat the Vikings defense, you have establish a rushing attack early on and pass when defenders are flat footed. The Vikings have elite players in their secondary and all eyes or on Drew Brees to see if he’ll use Michael Thomas to target Xavier Rhodes or if he uses second and third their guys like Ted Ginn Jr. to target inexperienced defenders like CB Mackenzie Alexander and rookie LB Ben Gedeon.
Prediction: Saints establish the run early but still make a few big plays using the deep ball
Neither of these franchises are particularly good or bad. The saints are always good on offense but lack defensive discipline while the Vikings are the exact opposite. If our o-line can play half decent we are easily a 10 win teams. Based on what I saw in the preseason, this will be a bottom-five offensive line in the NFL and our offense will suffer immensely because of it.
Based on the make up of these teams, look for a sloppy, low scoring game. Every point scored will be valuable and the turnover margin to night could decide who wins the game. The importance of field position will be emphasized in this one.
I’m guessing Dalvin will be our MVP on offense tonight, his ability to catch dump passes will be helpful when the line inevitably implodes. Look forWRs Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen to have quiet games, this isn’t gonna be a game that Sam Bradford can win with his arm; not with this O-line at least.
What it all boils down to is the offensive line’s ability to protect Sam and give him time to make plays, I just don’t see it happening. Once the line improves, the QB and WRs improve with it, for a line thats been as bad as it has, last season’s offensive productivity was the ceiling for this group.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Saints 20 – Vikings 13