ADVERTISEMENT

Kyle Rudolph (82) Matt Kalil (75) and Matt Cassel (16) will need big seasons for the Vikings to succeed.

CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

Rand: Vikings could finish anywhere from 5-11 to 11-5

  • September 4, 2014 - 7:38 PM

As someone who tries to see things before they happen in order to make savvy predictions, I’ve come to two realizations this week: 1) It’s a nearly impossible exercise when it comes to the NFL in general and 2) It’s particularly difficult, more so than in many seasons past, with these 2014 Vikings.

Most people seem to agree the Vikings should be better than they were a year ago when they went 5-10-1, but there are so many variables in play that a logical argument for any record between 5-11 and 11-5 can be made.

Let’s take a quick stab at two scenarios — best case and worst case — as I try to unpack my feelings about these Vikings.

BEST CASE

• The Vikings get average to above-average QB play from Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater or both, and everything we have been told about Norv Turner’s offense suiting the playmakers on that side of the ball comes to fruition.

• On defense, a thin secondary stays healthy and gets competent cornerback play from Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn, while head coach Mike Zimmer is able to squeeze production from a mix-and-match front seven.

• Instead of being terrible in close games and awful on third down (as the Vikings were in 2013), Zimmer’s schemes allow the Vikings to get stops when they need them while Turner’s offense puts teams away.

• They get a break or two early on allowing them to tread water during a tough opening stretch.

If all of those things happen, 11-5 is within reach in a league in which the majority of games come down to a handful of key plays.

WORST CASE

• Cassel falters early against tough competition and is benched after five games. Bridgewater replaces him, and while he shows some flashes of potential, he also makes plenty of rookie mistakes that turn winnable games the other way.

• While Zimmer’s schemes are upgrades, the personnel just isn’t there yet on defense. One or two key injuries in the secondary doom the Vikings to another year near the bottom in pass defense.

• The rough early schedule overwhelms players, wiping away the positive momentum gained from a coaching change, and the team spirals to a 5-11 record.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but the beauty and the curse of the NFL is that there is so much give and take either way.

michael rand

© 2014 Star Tribune