One sure sign that football season is getting closer is the 4th of July weekend and the sight of football preview magazines. There are many telltale signs that the 4th is approaching and football can’t be far behind – fireworks, parades, sidewalk sales, cold adult beverages and the smell of charcoal in the air.
One element that has also been a part of that annual ritual is the preseason NFL magazines that attempt to project those who will be the winners and losers of 2016. While print is an art form nearing life support with a younger audience not willing to pay for a magazine when they can get a dearth of information online, three of the biggest and longest standing preview magazines – Athlon Sports, The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly – have all checked in and all three have the Minnesota Vikings as a playoff teams, but not defending their NFC North tittle.
Athon doesn’t predict records in its summaries, but projected the Vikings to finish behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and as the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. By their predictions, the Vikings would head to Lambeau Field for the second time in three weeks for a date in the playoffs.
Athlon projected the top four seeds to be Arizona, Carolina, Green Bay and Dallas with Arizona reaching the Super Bowl and the Vikings getting eliminated in the wild card round.
When it came to its short summation of the Vikings projection, Athlon stated simply, “Passing game must catch up with Adrian Peterson and dominating defense.”
That would seem to be a running theme, one shared by TSN and PFW.
The Sporting News got a little aggressive with the records, projecting the Vikings to finish second in the NFC North with a 12-4 record – a game behind the 13-3 Packers. The Vikings were projected to be the fifth seed that would meet the 11-5 Giants in the wild card round. Green Bay would get the No. 1 seed and either Carolina (13-3) or Seattle (13-3) will receive No. 2 seed and the other will host 11-5 Arizona. It’s hard to imagine there would be such a huge separation between the haves and have nots of the 2016 NFC, but they clearly respect the Vikings’ chances.
Of the 2016 Vikings, TSN wrote, “The Vikings loaded up for Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Zimmer on top of what was already working on both sides of the ball as their run blocking, run defense and pass coverage all got better. A more complete team on the rise, they should return to the NFC playoffs while also making the Packers sweat.”
PFW wasn’t quite as gaudy with the win totals in the NFC, but still projected the Vikings to make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed with a 9-7 record. The division winners picked are Dallas (10-6), Green Bay (11-5), Carolina (11-5) and Seattle (12-4). The Vikings would play either Green Bay or Carolina in the first round. Seattle is projected to advance to the Super Bowl and lose to the Patriots.
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While much of the predicting that gets done is based on last year’s numbers – a year ago, just about everyone was picking the Vikings third or fourth in the NFC North. Zimmer had some good things going, but there were questions as to whether Peterson could get the job done and if the young Vikings defense was ready to step up.
If the Vikings make the strides they’re convinced they’re going to, maybe next year Minnesota will be a trendy pick to make the run to win the Super Bowl that has eluded them for 40 years.
- Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes spent his weekend back at his old college campus at Michigan State as an alumni instructor at MSU’s annual Spartan Elite youth football clinic. In a local interview, Waynes said he learned a lot about the different rules for cornerbacks in the NFL and that he intends to earn a starting job this season.
- The Vikings and U.S. Bank presented a $50,000 donation Saturday to the City of Duluth for a revitalization project for Lincoln Park, which in recent years has been deemed as unsafe because of its proximity to traffic and waterways. The donation is part of the Vikings’ and U.S. Bank’s “Places to Play” grant, which will donate $1 million to community-based nonprofit organizations that create or improve parks, playgrounds and youth sports facilities in low- to moderate-income communities in Minnesota.
- The pivoting glass doors at U.S. Bank Stadium will be subject to the same rules that apply to retractable roofs. If the doors are to be closed during the game, they must be closed no later than 90 minutes before game time so teams can warm up under the same conditions under which they will play.
- Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph got openly mocked on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders,” who seemingly misread a quote from Rudolph. Rudolph said he believes he can be one of the best tight ends in the league after embracing being a full-purpose tight end who both catches passes and is a strong blocker. In the fantasy football-fueled world of talk sports, somehow Rudolph’s comment was twisted to be interpreted that he thinks he’s as good as Rob Gronkowski, which was never said by Rudolph. But sometimes you don’t let the facts get in the way of a good debate.