2013 Record: 5-10-1
Key Additions: DL Linval Joseph; OL Vladimir Ducasse; S Kurt Coleman; CB Captain Munnerlyn; DL Corey Wootton.
Key Losses: DL Jared Allen; DL Kevin Williams; RB Toby Gerhart; CB Chris Cook; QB Josh Freeman; QB Joe Webb; DL Letroy Gulon.
HEAD COACH: Mike Zimmer
Offense: Who will be the starting quarterback in Minnesota for the 2014 season?
That's the burning question as Matt Cassel (1,807 passing yards with 11 TD and nine INT), Christian Ponder (1,648 yards, seven TD and nine INT) and rookie Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) go at it in pre-season to determine the starter for the season.
There's no doubt as to rules the roost for the Vikings' running game ... that would be Adrian Peterson, who did not top 2,000 yards rushing for a second straight year, but did manage to go for 1,266 yards (4.5 ypc average) and scored ten touchdowns while playing very little in the final four games last season.
The wide receivers are Greg Jennings (68 receptions, 804 yards and four TD) and Cordarelle Patterson (45, 469, four TD) with Jerome Simpson (48, 726, one TD) and Jarius Wright (26, 434, three TD) ready to contribute. The tight end is Kyle Rudolph, who had 30 receptions for 313 yards with three touchdowns.
The offensive line has John Sullivan at center while Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco are the guards. The tackles are Phil Loadholt and Matt Kalil.
STATS - The Viking running game is solid with Peterson carrying the ball as they averaged 130 yards per game in 2013 (8th in NFL) but the passing game lagged behind at 23rd overall, averaging just 214 yards per game. Minnesota averaged 344 yards a game, which was 13th in the NFL and scored an average of just over 24 points per game, which was good for 14th overall. Vikings' quarterbacks were sacked 44 times last year and the team turned the football over 32 times with 19 interceptions and 13 lost fumbles.
Defense: Pass rush mad man Jared Allen is gone (via free agency to Chicago) this season after leading the team in quarterback sacks yet again, so the team will have Everson Griffen (5.5 QB sacks) and Brian Robison (nine sacks) at the ends this season in the 4-3 set. The tackles are Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd.
The linebacking unit will have Jasper Brinkley in the middle along with outside linebackers Anthony Barr (rookie from UCLA) and Chad Greenway, who led the team with three interceptions last season. The secondary has safeties Jamarca Sanford and Harrison Smith while the corners will be Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn, who made two interceptions with Carolina last year.
STATS - Minnesota was decent against the run last season (110 yards allowed per game for 16th overall) but the pass defense was weak, finishing 31st overall while being torched to the tune of 287 yards per game. The Vikings ranked 31st overall in total defense as well, yielding 397 yards per game. They allowed a league worst 478 points in the 2013 season while only getting twelve interceptions. Minnesota collected 41 QB sacks.
OUTLOOK: With a new Head Coach in Mike Zimmer, the team seems to be in transition this year with a quarterback battle going on during training camp and pre-season while the defense looks to re-discover some of the lost magic it displayed during the playoff season of just two years ago.
Adrian Peterson is the man on offense and the Vikings build the game plan for him and the offense centers around him. If he is fully healthy this season and gets it going, it will do wonders for the passing game, which struggled last year with three different quarterbacks playing for the team.
The Vikings must find a replacement for Allen to utilize the pass rush on defense while limiting the big plays opposing teams were able to get against the pass defense as the secondary was scorched too often.
That's a lot to ask for at this time in a strong division that features teams like Green Bay and Chicago with strong passing attacks to go with solid running games on offense. Therefore, expect Minnesota to probably finish last again in the NFC North with a 5-11 record as they look to get back in the groove while building for the future.
Week 1- at St. Louis
Week 2- vs. New England
Week 3- at New Orleans
Week 4- vs. Atlanta
Week 5- at Green Bay
Week 6- vs. Detroit
Week 7- at Buffalo
Week 8- at Tampa Bay
Week 9- vs. Washington
Week 10- BYE WEEK
Week 11- at Chicago
Week 12- vs. Green Bay
Week 13- vs. Carolina
Week 14- vs. NY Jets
Week 15- at Detroit
Week 16- at Miami
Week 17- vs. Chicago