For the Minnesota Vikings, 2020 proved to be the tale of two seasons. Prior to their Week 7 bye, the team managed just a single victory, a matchup with the woeful Houston Texans decided by a single possession. The Vikings looked lost and, at that moment, seemingly in need of a new direction.
But Minnesota’s fortunes quickly changed during the back half of the season. An upset of the division-rival Green Bay Packers kickstarted a 5-1 run into early December. Dalvin Cook established himself as one of the game’s elite running backs while wideout Justin Jefferson delivered the type of rookie season not seen in the Twin Cities since Randy Moss’ debut more than two decades earlier. The poor start and a sour finish prevented the Vikings from reaching the playoffs, but the team demonstrated the potential for bigger things in 2021.
Most of the Vikings’ core returns for the upcoming season with some talented added at key spots. First-round pick Christian Darrisaw takes over for Riley Reiff at left tackle while Irv Smith Jr. takes over as the lead tight end in the passing game. On defense, former All-Pro Patrick Peterson expects to start at one of the corner spots while 2020 free-agent signing Michael Pierce returns from his opt-out season to anchor the interior of the line. Meanwhile, Klint Kubiak takes over for his father as offensive coordinator.
Minnesota Vikings Super Bowl 56 odds: +4000
A Super Bowl run for the Vikings wouldn’t take an act of God, but it will likely require a few external breaks. They might have already received one in the form of Aaron Rodgers’ reported disinterest in returning to the Packers. If Rodgers indeed stays away from Green Bay, the NFC North race suddenly appears wide open.
Still, the Vikings will need to find a way to recapture the offensive efficiency they displayed during their midseason run in 2020. That stretch saw the best of Kirk Cousins, who completed over 70% of his passes while tossing 15 touchdowns and only two picks. That version of Cousins has come and gone throughout his time in Minnesota. For the team to make a title run, the good Cousins will have to become a permanent resident.
The defense will also have to bounce back after a disappointing 2020 campaign, though that seems fairly reasonable. Pierce’s arrival would have offset the loss of Linval Joseph, but the pandemic pushed his debut back a year. Head coach Mike Zimmer’s defenses have never finished outside the top half of the league in back-to-back years during his time in Minnesota, suggesting the Vikings can also look forward to some positive regression.
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