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Strengths and weaknesses of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2017 opponents

The Vikings will face some difficult challenges in 2017. These are the strengths and weaknesses that their opponents will bring to the table.

With the release of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2017 schedule, they can start the process of preparing for the 13 teams they going to face this season.

Here is a thumbnail of where those teams ranked in 2016 and what the Vikings will seek to do to take out each of them – preparing for what they do well and trying to take advantages of the areas where they struggle.

Week 1 vs. New Orleans – 1st-ranked offense (16th rushing, 1st passing); 27th defense (14th rushing, 32nd passing). Pretty straightforward on this one. The Saints had the best passing offense and the worst passing defense. It will be a battle of wills as to who can stop who in a strength vs. weakness.

Week 2 at Pittsburgh – 7th-ranked offense (14th rushing, 5th passing); 12th defense (13th rushing, 16th passing). The Steelers again bring a potent passing attack, and with Le’Veon Bell for a full season, the running game is expected to improve. The defense isn’t stellar, but isn’t horrible at any phase of the game.

Week 3 vs. Tampa Bay – 18th-ranked offense (24th rushing, 16th passing); 23rd defense (22nd rushing, 22nd passing). The Bucs weren’t dominating in any facet of the game, but with the addition of DeSean Jackson on offense, the Bucs look to be improved, but none of their 2016 numbers stand out.

Weeks 4 and 12 vs. Detroit – 21st-ranked offense (30th rushing, 11th passing); 18th defense (18th rushing, 19th passing). The Lions simply got the job done late in games – just ask the Vikings about that. The key number is being ranked 30th in rushing. If teams can bottle up the run and make the Lions one-dimensional, Detroit will struggle.

Weeks 5 and 17 vs. Chicago – 15th-ranked offense (17th rushing, 14th passing); 15th defense (27th rushing, 7th passing). Given their poor record, the Bears weren’t brutal on either side of the ball. The key is their run defense. If they can’t stop the run, opponents will have the opportunity to pick them apart.

Weeks 6 and 16 vs. Green Bay – 8th-ranked offense (20th rushing, 7th passing); 22nd defense (8th rushing, 31st passing). We all know what Aaron
Rodgers can do, but the Packers pass defense was hideous last year and depleted by injuries. That will need to be a draft priority or teams will continue to get into high-scoring games because they allow too many yards through the air.

Week 7 vs. Baltimore – 17th-ranked offense (28th rushing, 12th passing); 7th defense (5th rushing, 9th passing). This will be a battle of the defenses. The Ravens had a hard time rushing the ball and counted on their defense as much as any team in the league and that shouldn’t change this year.

Week 8 vs. Cleveland (at London) – 30th-ranked offense (19th rushing, 28th passing); 31st defense (31st rushing, 21st passing). The Browns have been awful for a long time and, while their slew of draft picks, including the No. 1 overall selection, will be a help, it may still be a year or two away before we see the Browns contending for a playoff spot.

Week 10 at Washington – 3rd-ranked offense (21st rushing, 3rd passing); 28th defense (24th rushing, 25th passing). All the Redskins did consistently well was throw the ball. They made a lot of signings on defense in the offseason to address their deficiencies, but they still have a long way to go because they were near the bottom in both run defense and pass defense.

Week 11 vs. Los Angeles Rams – 32nd-ranked offense (31st rushing, 31st passing); 9th defense (16th rushing, 10th passing). It’s been the same story for some time that the Rams have a good defense but a dismal offense that consistently keeps them down. Without a first-round round pick in the Jared Goff trade, they’re going to need to hit on their draft picks to improve their offense to any great extent.

Week 13 at Atlanta – 2nd-ranked offense (5th rushing, 3rd passing); 25th defense (17th rushing, 28th passing). It was offense that got Atlanta to the Super Bowl and Dan Quinn is a defensive-minded coach who has added a couple of key pieces in free agency, but they have enough offense to score the points needed to win a lot of games.

Week 14 at Carolina – 19th-ranked offense (10th rushing, 21st passing); 21st defense (6th rushing, 29th passing). With Cam Newton playing injured, the Panthers offense struggled, but the biggest difference was not replacing Josh Norman, as the Panthers secondary got lit up often.

Week 15 vs. Cincinnati – 13th-ranked offense (13th rushing, 15th passing); 17th defense (21st rushing, 11th passing). The Bengals have good balance on both sides of the ball and, while not dominant, do well enough to keep them in games.

Each opponent the Vikings face this season will bring its own set of challenges. By the time Minnesota plays them, they may be very different than they are now, but they will come in with a game plan for each of them looking to attack their perceived weaknesses and trying to deal with their clear strengths.

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