Question 1: Following an impressive 13-4 season in Kevin O’Connell’s first season at the helm that ended in a disappointing first round exit, what are the overall expectations for this year’s Vikings team?
I think that Vikings fans expect the team to at least make it back to the playoffs this season, if not win a second straight NFC North title. I think a lot of people agree that a lot of what the Vikings did last season isn’t sustainable, like going 11-0 in games decided by one score in the regular season, but hopefully those sorts of dramatics won’t be needed all season long. The Vikings have plenty of talent on offense and should be able to put up quite a few points this season. With Brian Flores coming on board to run the defense, hopefully things on that side will improve. They really couldn’t get much worse, I don’t think.
Question 2: The Vikings released long time receiver Adam Thielen and then select Jordan Addison in the first round to replace him. What are your thoughts on that pick and how do you see Addison fitting in with Minnesota’s offense?
I think that Addison is going to have a fine rookie season if he can stay healthy. As long as he’s lining up across from Justin Jefferson, he isn’t going to be the primary focus of opposing defenses, and he has the sort of route-running ability and quickness that should allow him to get open quite a bit. I don’t know if he’s going to put together the sort of rookie season that Jefferson put together or anything like that, but once he gets his feet under him I think he’s going to prove to be an upgrade over Thielen, who had clearly lost a step over the course of last season and was basically the fourth option after the acquisition of T.J. Hockenson.
Question 3: Speaking of releases, the Vikings also released running back Dalvin Cook. How do you believe the Vikings will look to replace Cook in the backfield?
The Vikings, I believe, will be going with more of a committee approach in the backfield with Cook being gone. The leader of the committee, at least nominally, is Alexander Mattison, who has backed up Cook for the last four seasons and has only averaged about 100 carries/year during that time. The team will also likely give Ty Chandler some opportunities as well, and they’ve brought in veteran Myles Gaskin as more of a third down/pass-catching back. I’m not sure how the distribution of snaps between those three backs is going to go as of now, but I would expect to see a lot of Mattison early on.
Question 4: What would you say is the biggest matchup to watch in the upcoming Week 1 contest between the Buccaneers and Vikings?
I think the biggest one is going to be the Vikings’ defensive front against the Buccaneers offensive line. The Vikings are very young and inexperienced in the secondary, and if the pass rush can’t get to Baker Mayfield, they could have a tough time against Mike Evans and company. This is where Brian Flores’ creativity is going to have to become a factor. He’s going to have to find ways to get pressure on Mayfield and try to force him into getting the ball out earlier than he might like and put his secondary in easier situations.
Question 5: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Vikings are favored in this game by 6 points. How do you see this game playing out?
I think that number is just about right. This game is going to be a little closer than a lot of folks might expect, because all Vikings games seem to be close for whatever reason. In the end, I think the rabid home crowd for the Vikings and the options that they have on offense are going to carry the day, as they’ll get off to a 1-0 start with a victory. We’ll call it 27-20 for the final score in this one.
Via DraftKings Sportsbook, the current over/under for the game is set at 45.5.
Thanks so much to Christopher from the Daily Norseman for joining us this week!