2015 Record: 11-5-0
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer
New Faces for 2016 - S Michael Griffin, LB Emmanuel Lamur, LB Travis Lewis, TE Brian Leonhardt, OL Alex Boone, OL Andre Smith
OFFENSE: Teddy Bridgewater is the quarterback, having passed for 3,231 yards last season with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Bridgewater also scored three rushing touchdowns while gaining 192 yards on the ground. The backup QB is journeyman Shaun Hill.
Running back Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing (again) last season after basically a year-long NFL mandated suspension in 2014 by going for 1,485 yards (4.5 ypc average) and scored eleven touchdowns, including an 80-yard romp. His backup is Jerris McKinnon (271, 5.2 ypc and two scores), who is a very reliable running back in his own right.
The wide receivers have Stefon Diggs (52 receptions for 720 yards and four TD), Jarius Wright (34, 442 yards), Charles Johnson and rookie Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss), who is exepected to step right in and be a starter this season. The tight end is Kyle Rudolph, who made 49 receptions for 495 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns.
DEFENSE: Everson Griffen (10 1/2 QB sacks) and Brian Robison are the ends in the 4-3 alignment. The tackles will be Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph. Tom Johnson (5 1/2 sacks), Shamar Stephen, Danielle Hunter (six sacks) and Scott Crichton will be in reserve.
The linebacking unit includes Eric Kendricks (four sacks) in the middle along with outside backers Anthony Barr (3 1/2 sacks) and Chad Greenway. Travis Lewis, Audie Cole and Emmanuel Lamur will spell the starters.
The secondary features Michael Griffin and Harrison Smith (two interceptions) as the safeties. The corners are Terrence Newman (three INT) and Xavier Rhodes. Rookie Mackensie Alexander (Clemson), along with Captain Munnerlyn (two picks), Trae Waynes, Andrew Sendejo and Anton Exum will be the backups.
OUTLOOK: The Vikings won the NFC North division a year ago and surprised many at the quick improvement they showed. Of course having Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the NFL back on the team helped immensely.
The offense centers around Peterson and as long as he is healthy and running strong, the Vikings are competitive. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continued to develop in 2015 and with a solid contingent of receivers to throw the football to, should continue to get better this season.
The defense is pretty solid, amassing 43 QB sacks while intercepting 13 passes a year ago. They allowed just 19 points per game (5th in NFL) while ranking 13th in the league in overall defense, yielding an average of 344 yards per game.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer is known as a defensive guru and will again look to the defense to keep opponents in check and give the Vikings a chance in games.
The offense should do better with two reliable wideouts in the fold along with A.P. and the running game. The Vikings do need to mix it up a bit more this season after ranking 31st in passing a year ago.
Look for Minnesota (barring any major injuries to key players of course) to battle with the Green Bay Packers once again for the division crown. It could come down to that game on Christmas Eve when they face each other in Green Bay.
Fearless forecast - 10-6 this year (playoff team)
2016 TEAM SCHEDULE
Week 1 - at Tennessee
Week 2 - vs. Green Bay
Week 3 - at Carolina
Week 4 - vs. NY Giants
Week 5 - vs. Houston
Week 6 - BYE
Week 7 - at Philadelphia
Week 8 - at Chicago
Week 9 - vs. Detroit
Week 10 - at Washington
Week 11 - vs. Arizona
Week 12 - at Detroit
Week 13 - vs. Dallas
Week 14 - at Jacksonville
Week 15 - vs. Indianapolis
Week 16 - at Green Bay
Week 17 - vs. Chicago