We’re still deep in the heart of projection season as we wait for the 2018 NFL regular season to get underway, and the folks from Sports Illustrated have a doozy for fans of the Minnesota Vikings.
SI has projected the regular season records for all 32 NFL teams, and their projections have the purple matching their 13-3 mark from a season ago. If the projections from SI were to hold up, the Vikings would wind up with sole possession of the NFC’s best record, meaning the road to Super Bowl LIII would run directly through U.S. Bank Stadium.
Here’s what they have to say about the Vikings:
The Vikings are about as well-built as any team in the league. Their top-ranked defense from a year ago got even better in the offseason with the addition of Sheldon Richardson and rookie corner Mike Hughes. Following a career year from Case Keenum, the offense got a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who could get them over the hump, and Minnesota returns running back Dalvin Cook from an early-season ACL tear after he dazzled in his debut. The interior of the offensive line may be the only question in Minnesota, which is looking for its third NFC North crown in four years.
Pivotal game: Week 2 at Green Bay
This is the sort of early game that eventually decides a division. Beating a healthy Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau would give Minnesota a leg up in NFC North before we get into October. Rodgers won’t be going down easily in this game, though, since it was against the Vikings last year where the Packers’ season was lost.
Speaking of the Packers, Sports Illustrated has them joining the Vikings in the playoffs as a 12-4 wild card team. The rest of the NFC playoff field is rounded out by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints, and the Atlanta Falcons (who also project as a 12-4 wild card team).
They also have this interesting tidbit in their section about Cousins’ former team, the Washington Redskins (who they project to go 5-10-1):
Kirk Cousins pulled off a miracle last year that is rarely discussed. His banged-up offensive line got him sacked 41 times. His best pass-catcher missed most of the season with a hamstring injury. The defense was 27th in scoring and was the worst in the league against the run. And somehow Cousins led Washington to a 7-9 record.
Man. . .just imagine what he can do with the league’s best defense and (arguably) the best pair of wide receivers in the NFL at his disposal, huh?
Now, I haven’t gone through and done all the math on SI’s projections or anything, but I assume that the wins and losses for everyone equal out. The NFC is going to be an absolute meat grinder this year, as is evidenced by the fact that all of the teams that SI projects to make the playoffs have at least 12 victories (but the Vikings are the only ones with 13). Their AFC projections also have one 13-win team. . .the New England Patriots, as you’d expect. . .but no 12-win teams, though they do have several AFC clubs going 11-5.
Honestly, however tough the NFC winds up being, a 13-3 record, the #1 seed in the NFC, and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs are well within reach for this team. They have as much talent as anyone in the league, and anyone that says they don’t clearly has no idea what they’re talking about. It’s just a matter of all of it coming together at the right time rather than. . .you know. . .what we’ve gotten all to used to seeing from this team at the worst possible time.
Do you think SI’s projections are accurate here, folks?