2015 Minnesota Vikings Predictions: 3rd NFC North (2014 record: 7-9)
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer
NFC North Division Odds: +650
Super Bowl Champion Odds: +4700
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 8.5 (+140), Under 8.5 (-170)
Key Additions: Mike Wallace (WR), Trae Waynes (CB), Adrian Peterson (RB-Back from suspension)
Key Losses: Greg Jennings (WR), Matt Cassel (QB)
If you thought that the Vikes could be competitive and win seven games without Adrian Peterson for 15 games, then you’re either a fibber or a savant. Either way, this was a different team when they handed the offense over to rookie Teddy Bridgewater. While he didn’t set the world on fire, he was poised and limited his mistakes in most games, giving the team a glimpse into a promising future.
Mike Zimmer’s defense improved greatly year over year – slicing nearly nine points per game off of their average (21.4 allowed in 2014). The secondary play was a big reason for the improvement, as safety Harrison Smith blossomed in Zimmer’s scheme, excelling in every facet of the game.
Corners Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn were outstanding in coverage, and the Vikes made this an even deeper position by drafting one of the top corners available in Trae Waynes. There are some concerns amongst the front seven, though. Linemen Sharrif Floyd and Everson Griffin are solid and will provide good pressure on opposing QBs, but the other spots are lacking as Linval Joseph and the combo of Brian Robison (if healthy) and Scott Crichton have been disappointing.
The linebacking corps has one glaring weakness, and that’s the steady and mysterious decline of Chad Greenway. Perhaps his lack of production can be blamed on the improved play of Anthony Barr and Gerald Hodges, but we think he hit his physical peak about four years ago. There are far better options on the roster.
The success of Bridgewater was even more surprising due to the fact that his receivers were less than reliable. Adding Wallace may help, if he can stop being a prima donna jerk. If they get the Wallace of a few years ago, and he’s still young enough to ‘bring it,’ he’ll make the younger receivers like Charles Johnson and the enigmatic but uber-talented Cordarrelle Patterson that much better.
The line underperformed a bit last year, but Matt Kalil played injured for much of the season and should rebound nicely this year. Which brings us to Peterson. With any other 30 year-old back, we’d be talking decline. But Peterson has always been a physical freak and after a year off, with no hits or extra miles on his legs – add to it the fact that he’s anxious to show the NFL and his team that his suspension was a bit ridiculous – and we see about 1,500 yards and a dozen or so trips to the end zone. And a few extra headaches for opposing defenses.
Zimmer and Norv Turner have done a tremendous job ‘rebuilding’ this franchise. Getting Peterson back will make them a force in the division again. And having a great secondary against the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford could be key. The schedule has a few challenges, but the Vikes will be competitive and in most games (they lost four games last year by three points or less). We like the OVER.