We talked the other day about how the last Pro Football Weekly NFL Preview issue would be hitting the newsstands in a little less than a week. Well, at least one pre-season preview magazine has beaten them to it (at least in my neck of the woods), and that one is Lindy's Pro Football Preview. I've been thumbing through it a bit, and I'm going to share some of what they have to say about the Minnesota Vikings (which, really, is all a lot of us care about anyway).
When doing their team rankings, the folks at Lindy's rank teams in nine different categories. . .coach, quarterbacks, running backs, receivers (which includes tight ends), offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, and special teams. They then throw in something for "intangibles" that ranges from -1.5 to +2 that gets added to the team's overall score. I'm assuming that it would go to -2, but a -1.5 is the lowest score any team was given.
We'll start with the coaching spot, where it appears that Leslie Frazier is starting to get a little bit of love from the media at large. The Vikings' coaches rate a 7.5 on the 1-10 scale. There are 13 teams with a higher ranking, and four other staffs with the same 7.5 rating. There are also nine staffs with an 8.0 rating, so another good season from the Vikings would likely raise Frazier's stock in a lot of people's eyes.
On the offensive side, as you'd expect, the Vikings rated low at the quarterback position, getting just a 6.0. That's tied for the lowest score in the league in that category. However, they more than made up for it by getting a 10.0 at the running back position, the only unit on either side of the ball in the entire National Football League to score a perfect 10. (They obviously love Toby Gerhart.) The receiving corps merited a 7.0. . .not great, but that's the same score as the Chicago Bears received and just below the 8.0 that was given to both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions in that category. And, as you'd expect, the Vikings were tabbed as the best offensive line in the NFC North with a 7.5, a point better than Chicago and a point and a half better than Green Bay and Detroit.
Not many surprises defensively, either. . .the Vikings were the clear choice for the best defensive line in the North, scoring a 9.0, compared to a 7.5 for Chicago, 7.0 for Detroit, and 6.5 for Green Bay. Unfortunately, the rest of the defense is as lowly-rated as the defensive line is highly-rated. The linebacker group scored the lowest of any unit on the team, getting just a 5.5, while the secondary received a score of just 6.0. While I expected the grade for the secondary to be behind Green Bay and Chicago, the fact that Detroit's secondary even merited a higher score than Minnesota's surprised me a bit. Green Bay and Chicago both got 8.0, while Detroit managed a 7.0.
The Vikings were the choice for the best special teams in the North, too, scoring an 8.5 in that category. As far as the "intangibles" category, the folks at Lindy's chose to give one extra point to the other three teams in the NFC North. . .and to subtract one point from Minnesota. The main reason they cite for the docking is a tough early schedule (back-to-back divisional road games and the trip to London, all before the early bye).
Overall, Lindy's gives the Vikings a composite score of 66.0, putting them in second place in the NFC North. The teams that rank more highly that the Vikings are the San Francisco 49ers (71.0, the only NFC team to break the 70 mark), Green Bay (68.5), the Dallas Cowboys (67.5), the New Orleans Saints (67.5), and the Atlanta Falcons (67.0). The 66.0 is also equal to the score given to the Washington Redskins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and. . .surprisingly enough. . .everyone's pre-season darlings this year, the Seattle Seahawks.
Compared to last year's Lindy's preview, the Vikings are two points better than they were going into 2012 (64.0 last year, 66.0 this year). The Vikings are the only NFC North team to have gone up in score from last year to this year. The Packers got 5.5 points worse (74.0 going into last season, 68.5 now), the Bears got six points worse (70.5 to 64.5) and the Lions got seven points worse (68.0 to 61.0, tied for the lowest mark in the NFC with the Carolina Panthers). Going into the 2012 season, the talent gap between the Vikings and the rest of the division was perceived to be pretty huge. Going into the 2013 season, what little gap remains appears to be shrinking rapidly. Hopefully this trend will continue.
Lindy's also has a section that goes into individual rankings for players, but that sounds like something we might take a look at in a later post. If the magazine is available at your local bookstore or newsstand, you should really go out and grab a copy. Because. . .well, it's football. That's really just about the only reason you need, isn't it?