We talked at length the other day about how the Minnesota Vikings are, apparently, already being dismissed as a serious contender for the 2016 NFL season by the folks at ESPN. Now, we have a second group of experts that appear to have already decided that 2016 won't be the Vikings' year either.
Behind the great E$PN paywall, the folks from Football Outsiders have put together their projected standings for the 2016 NFL season, and it doesn't look promising for our favorite football team. They have the purple projected to go 9-7 in 2016, giving them the same record as the Detroit Lions in the NFC North. That second place finish would still, apparently, get them into the post-season as the #6 seed, but it's still a far cry from what most fans of this team are expecting.
There isn't a whole lot of commentary behind the projection for the Vikings:
Our projection system sees the Vikings holding onto last year's gains rather than improving significantly, but taking the next step into Super Bowl contention is certainly a valid goal for this team. In particular, the offense could benefit from getting back two starting linemen who missed all of last year with injuries, center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt.
The Vikings are second in the NFC North in the Football Outsiders projections because they finish behind the 12-4 Green Bay Packers. Without going too deeply into the reasoning behind the Packers' projection, it has a great deal to do with the fact that the sun, apparently, shines directly out of Aaron Rodgers' backside.
I like the work that the guys at Football Outsiders do each season. . .honestly, I do. And I'll acknowledge that I'm biased. But here's what I don't understand about these sorts of projections and what we're seeing for the Vikings already.
-The Vikings went 11-5 last year.
-They haven't lost anybody of any consequence.
-They had one of the five best defenses in the National Football League in 2015, and with all the young talent they have on that side of the ball, should be at least that good again in 2016.
-Their biggest weakness was the offensive line, and they made moves all offseason to strengthen the starters and the depth along the offensive front.
-Last season, they were matched against two divisions that were pretty good in the AFC West and the NFC West. This season, they're matched up against two divisions that Football Outsiders isn't projecting to be very good. . .the NFC East, which they're projecting to have one 10-6 team and three 6-10 teams, and the AFC South, which they aren't projecting to have a team better than 8-8.
Barring a rash of injuries, which nobody can realistically project, I just don't really understand the logic behind the thinking that the Minnesota Vikings are somehow going to be a worse team in 2016 than they were in 2015.
I know that the projections from Football Outsiders evolved last year as we got closer to the start of the season. It wouldn't be surprising if something similar happened this season.