2018 NFL season preview: Minnesota Vikings

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Not many teams take on such dramatic changes just months after playing in the Conference Championship game. But that’s exactly what the Vikings chose to do. After losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in a battle for NFC supremacy, the Vikings strongly pursued quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency.

While nobody can blame the Vikings for going after such a high profile free agent and potential franchise quarterback, it’s important to remember that there is often a transition period for quarterbacks who change teams. It takes time to study the playbook, get on the same page as the receivers, and acclimate to a whole new life, city, and fanbase.

Cousins steps in to a rather difficult situation, simply due to the high expectations of this team. Anything less than reaching the conference title game would be considered a disappointment. You could even argue that even reaching the conference title game for the second year in a row wouldn’t be enough. After all, the Vikings were able to achieve that with Case Keenum at the helm, and after they just dished out a massive contract to Cousins, the expectations are bigger than ever.

The good news for Cousins is his vast assortment of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Starting with two great wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, Cousins has great options to pass the ball to. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is a massive target over the middle of the field and in the red zone. All three of them will make the transition easier for Cousins to complete.

In the running game, the Vikes are set to get their stud young runner Dalvin Cook back into the lineup. Cook sustained a season ending ACL tear last year, but he appears to have regained his explosive burst, according to early reports out of training camp. While Jerick McKinnon is now in San Francisco, Latavius Murray remains a key weapon for Minnesota. Murray played great last season, scoring eight touchdowns on the year, and it comes just a year after getting 12 touchdowns for the Raiders. How the Vikings decide to split the carries remains to be seen, but it would make sense to incorporate both players into the game plan, especially considering Cook is still recovering from his injury.

Even though the Vikings offense appears to have weapons on every level, it’s the defense that is the powerful force for this team. Minnesota’s defense was ranked first overall in 2017, after giving up a league-best 15.8 points and 275.9 total yards per game. This defense was absolutely stellar last season, and this year should be no different.

The Vikings pass defense was as stingy as it gets. They were second in passing yards allowed at 192 per game, and they permitted the least number of touchdowns on the year, allowing just 13 passing scores across 16 games. They were also able to haul in 14 interceptions on the year.

The 2018 Vikings will be held to a very high standard after the season they had last year. Despite the change at the quarterback position, this team is really facing a Super Bowl or bust season, with such a stacked roster on both sides of the ball.