Vikings Preview Capsule
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-8)
New faces: LT Riley Reiff, RT Mike Remmers, RB Dalvin Cook, RB Latavius Murray, WR Michael Floyd, C Pat Elflein, DT Jaleel Johnson.
Key losses: RB Adrian Peterson, LT Matt Kalil, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, LG Alex Boone, LB Chad Greenway, RG Brandon Fusco.
Strengths: Defensive line, bookended by Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter and anchored by Linval Joseph, is one of best and deepest in league. Front four logged 34 of team’s 41 sacks, which were fifth most in NFL. Secondary should still be challenging to pass against, with CB Xavier Rhodes and SS Harrison Smith in charge. If there’s time for QB Sam Bradford to throw, all-time single-season completion percentage record holder has capable group of WRs with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Floyd, when back from four-game suspension. Rookie Cook adds dynamic component to offense.
Weaknesses: Offensive line has only one returning starter, RG Joe Berger, and he was canter last two seasons. Reiff and Remmers should be upgrade from struggles endured at tackle spots in 2016, but by how much? Run blocking was just as much of problem as pass protection. Cook has lightning-like speed, but fumbling was occasionally issue at Florida State.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Cook, Diggs, Thielen.
Expectations: There’s just as much talent, experience and swagger in place as in 2015, when Vikings surpassed Green Bay to win NFC North and started 5-0 in 2016. Front office has committed too much money on long-term contracts for stars on defense and free-agent deals for veterans on offensive line to be satisfied with finish short of playoffs. Regaining division title from Packers will be difficult, though, and limitations of offensive line could again be team’s demise.