It’s early August. The Hall of Fame game has been played in Canton, Ohio and the players for all 32 teams are sweating it out in the heat preparing for the 2019 season.
This is not just any season. It’s the 100th season of the National Football League, and every team thinks this is the year they will win the championship.
Minnesota Vikings fans have been starving for a championship since 1961. After all, they won their first-ever NFL game.
September 5 the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears will have center stage. Both franchises have been around as long as this league is old. The Bears are very good — last year they were 12-4.
The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. He’s a former NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion, so we’ll see if the 13-time champion Packers can fuel the oldest rivalry in sports. In the meantime, how good can the Vikings be?
Last year they were just 8-7-1 and got swept by the Bears. They were not good in the red zone and were not consistent on third down.
This is year six for Head Coach Mike Zimmer. After 48 wins, he’s guided the Vikings to the playoffs twice, where he’s 1-2.
Expectations are one thing but producing is another, and trust me, the Vikings are talented. They have good players, they are well-coached, they have the best training site in the NFL and their home stadium is second to none.
Defensively, the Vikings slipped last year for lots of reasons, but lack of talent was not one of them. Everson Griffen, a three-time perennial Pro Bowler, slipped last year. His personal battle with mental health contributed; he was not the same player. If he returns to form mentally and physically, the Vikings will have a chance to redeem themselves on defense.
Zimmer’s scheme is pressure at the point of attack. When you have five Pro Bowl-caliber players on defense with experience like Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Griffen, stopping people is what it’s all about.
Offensively, the Vikings are also loaded, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins with 30 TDs and 4,298 yards; and receivers with 100-plus receptions each in 2018 — Adam Thielen (113) and Stefon Diggs (102), both in their 20s and both over 1,000 yards. The Vikings have a lot to be excited about.
That’s the first time in Vikings history that’s happened. The Vikings are going to a zone-blocking scheme up front this year. They hope to run the ball more with third-year back Dalvin Cook. He had 920 yards rushing and receiving last year and missed five games. Adrian Peterson is the last Vikings back to run for a 1,000 yards.
If Cook can just stay healthy, the Vikings offense should be balanced. They are going to a West Coast attacking-style offense and plan to move the ball around. If they are fundamentally sound, this should be a fun season.
I’ve given you the best-case scenario after just a week of camp at TCO Center in Eagan. The excitement is in the air, and the Vikings look good. Expectations are huge for this team to return to the form of 2017 when they reached the NFC title game.
Over the years, the Vikings have had some really good teams. I think they have a chance to really be good in 2019 also.