Throw Out the Unknowns; Why the Vikings Improving on 13-3 Isn’t Crazy

IMAGE: Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports Images

IMAGE: Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports Images



“Tough” schedule

Target on our back

Won’t surprise anyone this year

Need time to build cohesiveness on offense

The offensive line won’t block anyone

… pick your reason for why the Vikings won’t improve on, or even match, last season’s 13-3 record.

All of the excuses are out there. But guess what. Is there anything you notice from that list that sticks out? Maybe a running trend throughout?

….. anyone?

They are all hypothetical, mythical figures of our imagination. None of those things can be measured and some of them may not even exist, or if they exist, they may not be relevant enough to cost the Vikings any games.

Let me explain, by looking at our “tough schedule”….

I’m picking on this one because it it’s my favorite. Making a prediction about a season, that hasn’t existed yet, is hard enough. Why would you make a projection, that is based around 31 other team’s predictions? Just because the Vikings are lined up to play a bunch of teams who were good last year, doesn’t mean they will wind up playing that same good team, when this year’s matchup rolls around. The NFL has more turnover in their playoff teams than any other professional league on the American map.

Look no farther than 2016-17 playoff teams to 2017-18 playoff teams. The AFC actually hung steady with 3 of the 6 teams making the playoffs after both seasons (New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City). The NFC, on the other hand, had only ONE team (Atlanta) that made the playoffs in both ‘17 and ‘18…

So, you can take that argument and ?

The other bullet points and their hypothetical nature are self-explanatory. But, I have an idea:

Instead of trying to pick each game and project matchups that are weeks in the future. Let’s make a record prediction based on things we actually know. Let’s compare last year’s 13-3 team with this year’s and decide how many games better or worse the 2018-19 Vikings are vs last year’s.

The Vikings look a lot like the team from last year in most areas but there are a few important spots that have some new faces, one in particular that we’ve discussed a little bit leading up to the new season….

Cousins is going to prove to be a big upgrade over Case Keenum, as this season goes along. Keenum was propped up by the extreme amount of talent around him. Cousins has all of the pieces (outside of a shaky offensive line) around him to showcase his own baller abilities. But, Kirk Cousins isn’t the only reason why the Vikings should be able to stabilize the ship after the heartbreak in Philly. It’s a combination of a lot of things. But, if there is anything that gets us as excited as the thought of Kirk under center, it’s a healthy Dalvin Cook, who says he’s ready to go whenever the Vikings’ coaches call his number.

Kirk Cousins is a new addition and Dalvin Cook feels like one, but the offense isn’t the only side of the ball that got upgrades this last offseason. Spielman also found a shiny new toy for Mike Zimmer’s defense. Let’s just say that the inside pressure Zimmer’s defense is so well-known for, won’t see any decline after the Sheldon Richardson signing. The former University of Missouri DT, was the only piece the D-Line was missing and is known as one of the best at his position, league-wide.

The additions of Kirk, Sheldon, and a healthy Dalvin are great and what really make this team stick out as improved, compared to last year’s NFC Title-Game participants. However, continued development at key spots should prove vital as well.

We expect Trae Waynes to solidify himself one of the league’s better defensive backs before he heads into his 5th and final year of his Rookie deal.

– Latavius Murray looks like a different and much healthier running back this year.

– Everson Griffin is healthy again, besides a cut leg that got infected recently

– Danielle Hunter is expected to make big strides after signing a big contract extension this offseason.

You could look at a lot of other players and positions, including the rest of the SKOL Patrol Secondary. Many expect Mackensie Alexander to make big strides after another season in Zimmer’s difficult defensive back scheme. With the drafting of Mike Hughes, who is pushing Alexander for the Nickel spot already, has positive reports out of camp that not even the great Xavier Rhodes had at this early stage of his career, the Vikings could have the best secondary in the NFL.

QB’s QB’s WHAT YOU GONNA DO…. ??

Still not convinced? Well, it’s not just the improved talent and continued growth of a good team that we can look at. We also know the make-up of this Vikings team. Look at the professionalism they exude and the determination they have to win. The stability around SKOL Nation hasn’t always been that secure…

There aren’t any distractions. Outside of some offensive line drama early on, it always seems quiet with this team. We don’t go to bed worrying about scandals and legal trouble. No Randy Moss or Percy Harvin personalities to send possible divisiveness throughout the locker room… No last-minute plane trips to the south to convince a quarterback to come out of retirement for the 17th time… I’m not even sure a big party boat ran by Fred Smoot and Darren Sharper pulling in could distract this team from their ultimate goal.

When you can get a professional team all pulling the rope in the same direction (or rowing the boat if you’re a PJ-guy) you’re already weeks ahead of most teams, at this point of the season. Most teams are putting in new game plans from new coaches and/or filling heavy pressure roles with rookies or guys they aren’t sure can handle it. Not here. Positions are filled with above average or better players, outside of the offensive line.

The stability around Kirk Cousins, combined with his own professionalism, will help him get comfortable quickly in a new offense. I expect him to outperform last year EASILY, and possibly have the best season of his young career. The Vikings have a better team now, than they did last year. And, they are hungry. Zimmer and Spielman have done such a good job targeting the right talent with the right heads on their shoulder pads and it is now paying off. The roster is full of guys with big confidence and small egos. Guys who prefer to let their play do the talking and take their job seriously. That’s a very underrated aspect of the Vikings’ leadership.

So, I’ll let the other outlets base their projections on other projections, while trying to also guess when the world will end, when the next ice age will begin, and when the aliens will take over. When you look at what we know about this Vikings’ team, compared to last year’s, there is one thing that is hard to deny…

THEY ARE BETTER.

In fact, I believe they are TWO WINS better than they were last year. So, go ahead and @ me with all of your guessing games. My final record prediction for 2018-19 is…..

15-1.

#SKOL

Eric Strack
Minnesota Sports Fan @RealMNSportsFan