The 2017 NFL season is approaching ever so quickly, and with the beginning of it comes optimism for the Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota is coming off of a 2017 season, where it finished with a record of 8-8. This season though will be a little bit odd.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Vikings will open up the season without running back Adrian Peterson on the roster. Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher is now a member of the New Orleans Saints who, ironically, open up against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota did not let the loss of Peterson get to them this offseason though. Instead, the Vikings bolstered its backfield, as they drafted Dalvin Cook – Florida State running back – with the 41st overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
I expect big things out of Cook this season, and I firmly believe he will excel in this system. Cook winds up winning the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The Vikings also added former Oakland Raider Latavius Murray to the backfield as well.
Murray will enter his fourth season in the NFL, after three seasons in Oakland where he posted 2,278 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in that time frame. To add on, Murray also does not make many mistakes in the backfield.
Last season, Murray recorded just two fumbles, with one lost. This is coming off of a 2015 season where he had four fumbles, so there was an improvement from season-to-season.
I think both Cook and Murray will help the Vikings immensely. Last season, Minnesota was the worst team in rushing yards per game – the Vikings averaged 75.3 rushing yards per game.
This season will be different though, and Cook and Murray will be major factors to why the Vikings will win the NFC North with a record of 11-5.
Another major key that the Vikings had to address in the offseason was the offensive line. Last season, the Vikings had one of the worst offensive line combinations in the NFL.
Minnesota was 10th in the league in sacks allowed, at 38, and seventh in quarterback hits, at 104. That is and will change this season.
The Vikings made it a priority to bolster the offensive line for this season, which it did. Minnesota added three offensive linemen in the offseason: Reid Fragel, from the Kansas City Chiefs; Riley Reiff, from the Detroit Lions; and Mike Remmers, from the Carolina Panthers.
Likewise, the Vikings also drafted a pair of offensive linemen in the Draft. Minnesota added youth, with Pat Elflein – a center from Ohio State – and Danny Isidora – a guard from Miami (Florida).
The more protection, the better. Now, with better coverage, quarterback Sam Bradford will be able to show off his arm and throw down the field more this season.
That, accompanied with more knowledge of the playbook, will pay dividends for this Minnesota team, which is looking to reach the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
To add to the strong backfield, I expect tight end Kyle Rudolph to backup the best season of his career, with a season mirrored to that. Rudolph is one of the most underrated tight ends in the NFL, and he is able to do multiple different things on the field.
His impact is as important as any on this Vikings team, and that will show this season.
Once again, I predict Minnesota to edge the Green Bay Packers in the division and win its second division championship in three seasons.
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