We’re back with another FY 2016 NFL team preview! Purple isn’t your color? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami.
Where They’re Coming From
Having their hopes crushed by another missed field goal in the playoffs.
Last season, the Vikings won the NFC North for the first time since 2009 on the back of their fifth-ranked scoring defense.
Their offense started a lot of drives with favorable field position, and was just good enough to pry the division away from Green Bay.
They were headed for the Divisional Playoffs. Then Blair Walsh did this …
Where They’re Going
Continuing to waste a talented roster thanks to poor quarterback play.
I’ll make this as simple as possible: Teddy Bridgewater has been inadequate.
We are living in an era of phenomenal quarterback play, but Bridgewater isn’t contributing to that … at all. Last season, he averaged just over 200 passing yards per game, and a measly 14 touchdowns through the air.
Bridgewater has the luxury of handing the ball off to the best back in the league, but hasn’t been able to make a difference with his arm in his two seasons as a pro. If he doesn’t make some drastic improvements in his third year, the Vikings will continue to waste their loaded roster.
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: G Alex Boone, T Andre Smith, FS Michael Griffin, WR Laquon Treadwell (drafted)
Losses: WR Mike Wallace, S Robert Blanton
What to Watch For
A new and improved offensive line.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings’ offensive line ranked 14th in the league last season (seventh in run blocking, and 16th in pass protection), but average won’t be the case this season.
Minnesota added free agents Alex Boone and Andre Smith, shoring up two of their weaker spots along the line: right tackle and left guard.
Not only will Adrian Peterson have bigger holes to run through, but Teddy Bridgewater will have even more time to (not) find a receiver.
Who to Watch For
Adrian Peterson, RB
It wouldn’t be right to discuss the Vikings and not give Adrian Peterson his own section, so here it is.
When he’s played in more than 12 games, AP has never rushed for fewer than 1,250 yards in a season. He’s won three rushing titles in his nine seasons as a pro.
This year will be no different; the O-line is one of the better groups he’s had in his career, and the offense will rely on him all season long.
If there’s an area of concern with AP – and this is nitpicking a bit – it’s that he only found the endzone 11 times last season, and has only surpassed 13 touchdowns once in his career. I don’t blame Peterson for those numbers, but if the Vikes want to repeat as division champs, they’ll have to be better than 16th in points scored.
What Could Go Wrong
Teddy Bridgewater remains a below-average quarterback.
I didn’t get enough of my frustration out earlier. This is the only thing holding the team back.
The Broncos proved last season that you don’t need great quarterback play to win a Super Bowl, as long as you possess one of the most dominant defenses of all-time.
Minnesota’s defense is very good, but are not good enough to make up for one of the most ineffective quarterbacks in the league. Bridgewater may not be turning the ball over a ton, but he’s not making big throws at big moments, either.
The Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first-round this year to provide their quarterback with a legitimate weapon on the outside. The rookie may not start Week 1, but he’ll be eased in while he learns Norv Turner’s offense; so, the excuse of not having a receiver won’t be valid by the end of this season. (It might not even be valid at the start with Stefon Diggs emerging as a legit no. 1 and Charles Johnson having a nice preseason.)
Again, if Bridgewater doesn’t step-up in a big way, the team would be wise to look elsewhere at quarterback since they have the defense and ground game in place to win a championship now.
Where They’ll End Up
Scratching and clawing to make it back to the playoffs.
The NFC appears to be pretty tough heading into 2016, and one of the teams projected to be really good is the Green Bay Packers.
To repeat as division champs, the Vikings will have to hold off a much better Packers team than they dealt with last season. Should they hand the crown back to Green Bay, a Wild Card spot is not guaranteed by any means. It’s safe to assume one Wild Card berth will go to either Seattle or Arizona, and there will be 11 other teams fighting with Minnesota for the other.