This week's Access Vikings podcast is naturally heavy on the discussion of new quarterback Sam Bradford. Even though Mike Zimmer on Wednesday was coy about naming Week 1 starter, there was a thorough breakdown of the decision — including opinions about what the Vikings should do — for your listening enjoyment.
Later on in the episode — find it at Startribune.com, iTunes or Google Play, by the way — we delved into some fun: taking some guesses as to how specific players and the team as a whole will end up doing in several statistical categories.
Vikings writer Matt Vensel set the lines, leaving all of us to speculate as to whether the player/team would go over or under that number. Let's circle back here on five of the most intriguing ones because they will say a lot about how the season unfolds:
• Cordarrelle Patterson catches: 16.
Patterson caught 45 passes as a rookie, 33 the next season and … two last year. So the trajectory is not good. Some (hand raised here) clamored for him to at least get worked into the offense last season with some gadget plays and screens, given the big-play ability he has shown. The Vikings appear more willing to do that this year, but you still have to wonder if he'll even average one catch per game (and hence get to 16 for the year).
Sacks allowed by the Vikings: 45.
• That number was picked because it's how many sacks the Vikings allowed last season. Let's assume the Vikings' offensive line is somewhat improved this season … but let's also note that Bradford, the presumed starter for the vast majority of the season, is not as good at scrambling as Teddy Bridgewater. Bradford has been sacked, on average, about 38 times per 16 games in his career.
• Bradford touchdown passes: 21.
That number represents his career-high, which is pretty underwhelming even though he's only played a full 16 games twice in his six seasons. That said, if he has more time to throw than Bridgewater did a season ago — when he was constantly under siege and finished with 14 TD passes, same as his rookie year — and better receiving options, Bradford should be able to approach the mid-20s this season. Verdict: Over.
• Pro Bowl players (including replacements): 5.5.
On a team with established standouts as well as up-and-comers, landing a handful of players in the Pro Bowl shouldn't be terribly hard. But getting at least six? That's a big number. Let's figure Adrian Peterson, Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith are among the best bets. Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes could be, too. Blair Walsh kicking inside? Even Bradford (that was the podcast prediction, anyway).
• Season wins: 9.5.
This is what it all comes down to, right? On one hand, the Vikings could be due for a natural letdown after winning so many close games in a surprising 11-5 finish a year ago. Add to that the quarterback uncertainty and there's reason to take the under. But if Bradford plays at the same level he played at a year ago — solid, maybe even a little better than Bridgewater did last season — the Vikings and their excellent defense should still contend.