The early preseason projections are starting to come in for the 2017 season and Monday Morning Quarterback with Peter King of Sports Illustrated is picking the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs, but close enough to make a run if things fall the right way.
The Vikings finished 16th in the preseason power rankings, ahead of Detroit (No. 17) and Chicago (No. 28).
Among the things cited by King and SI is that they’re buying into rookie Dalvin Cook as a more-than-capable replacement for Adrian Peterson. In the coaching/front office segment, they mentioned new running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, who “will have a significant role in smoothing Cook’s transition to the pro game.”
As to the decisive portion of the Vikings’ schedule, it’s the same meat grinder Vikings fans have been looking at since the day the schedule was released – Weeks 12-16, when the Vikings have four road games (at Detroit, Atlanta, Carolina and Green Bay) and their only home game against Mike Zimmer’s former Cincinnati Bengals team.
As to why he ranked the Vikings 16th, King wrote, “Classic team that could go in either direction. If Sam Bradford flourishes in Pat Shurmur’s system, if Cook confirms his high first-round talent with an impact year, if the Vikings can build up a strong playoff résumé entering a brutal post-Thanksgiving stretch, and if young defensive stalwarts like Danielle Hunter can continue their ascension, this will be a playoff team. Big ifs, but all certainly possible. One look in the rear-view mirror here. Kudos to GM Rick Spielman for making the tough call last Labor Day weekend and trading a 2017 first-round pick for Bradford. With the short- and long-term uncertainty surrounding Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury (to this day), Spielman gave up what became the 14th pick in 2017 for short- and long-term insurance. Bradford delivered in up-and-down fashion, typical of his career, but there was no passer in this draft putting up numbers like Bradford’s in 2016: 71.6 percent accuracy, 20 touchdowns to five interceptions, 99.3 rating. Having a quarterback is why the Vikings will contend.”
Cited as the most important factor to the Vikings in 2016, it was noted that the Vikings are rebuilding their running game to be as effective as it was during the days with a healthy Adrian Peterson. Perhaps more importantly, in a category called “Vikings prediction in 10 words or less,” they provided the cryptic, “By Halloween, Cook will be a top-five NFL back.”
If that happens, the Vikings will be on upper end of the prediction that currently has them as a middle-of-the-road 8-8 or 9-7 team. That prediction isn’t far away from what most analysts are categorizing the Vikings as, but, there were many of the same predictions two years ago when the Vikings went 11-5 and knocked Green Bay off its seemingly permanent home on top of the heap in the NFC North.
For the record, here was the full ranking from top to bottom: 1. New England; 2. Oakland; 3. Atlanta; 4. Tennessee; 5. Pittsburgh; 6. Green Bay; 7. Dallas; 8. Kansas City; 9. Seattle; 10. New York Giants; 11. Tampa Bay; 12. Miami; 13. Denver; 14. New Orleans; 15. Arizona; 16. Minnesota; 17. Detroit; 18. Baltimore; 19. Carolina; 20. Houston; 21. Cincinnati; 22. Washington; 23. Philadelphia; 24. Indianapolis; 25. Los Angeles Chargers; 26. Buffalo; 27. Jacksonville; 28. Chicago; 29. Los Angeles Rams; 30. San Francisco; 31. Cleveland; 32. New York Jets.