The relative lack of buzz for the Vikings this year might be indicative of a public perception that a mediocre season similar to 2018 awaits.
While that’s certainly possible, the more interesting notion is this: Is it more likely that the Vikings will have a very good season (like 11-5) or a really bad season (like 5-11)?
First take: Michael Rand
I’ve been walking out this CONTROVERSIAL opinion in a few select places lately, and so I’ll try it out here: I think the Gophers will win more football games than the Vikings this year (even though the college regular season is four games shorter).
You can read that as confidence in the Gophers, pessimism with the Vikings or both.
The Vegas over-under win total for the Vikings is nine, a realistic number. But while I think 11-5 is possible for the Vikings, I’ll take 5-11 as more likely.
The logic: if things start to go bad this year — say the offensive line doesn’t improve much, the defense looks old or there are key injuries — they could go very bad.
Columnist Chip Scoggins: Michael, you’re starting off very bold. I don’t think the Gophers will win more games than the Vikings because that likely would require them to win 10 games. Actually, I can envision both winning nine games.
But in terms of the discussion point here, I’m going to disagree with you. I think 11 wins is a more likely outcome than five wins for several reasons, but mainly the defense.
The Vikings have too many good players on defense and one of the best defensive coaches in terms of scheme. Now, the offense might not make the kind of improvement that produces 11 wins. But barring a massive amount of injuries to key players, their returning talent on offense and defense makes them at least a .500 team, and better than that if the offense makes a significant jump under Kevin Stefanski/Gary Kubiak.
Rand: Logically, you are right. And I should also note that the last time I had such a pessimistic feeling about the Vikings was 2017, when they won 13 games and went to the NFC title game. I go into this as the underdog.
But their schedule is tough. Road games at Green Bay, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle and the L.A. Chargers are no joke. The home slate is more forgiving but still has potholes.
My argument, though, is based more on feel and memory than anything. When a team is in make-or-break mode, as the Vikings seem to be in 2019 with many of their key stakeholders, things can come unhinged. It happened in 2001, when the Vikings dropped from 11 wins the previous season to five. It happened in 2010, when the Vikings’ wins were sliced in half during Year 2 of Brett Favre.
Scoggins: I agree on the point about managing pressure or expectation or however we want to frame it. The Vikings didn’t respond well at all to the “Super Bowl or bust” hype last season. The mood felt uptight, especially as the season began to unravel.
Maybe less national attention will help, but the urgency hasn’t changed. The window for the core nucleus won’t stay open forever. The clock is ticking on Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman’s tenure. And Kirk Cousins will be in a contract year after this season. That’s why the organization hired Kubiak to assist Stefanski. They need immediate improvement on offense.
Rand: I’d gladly be wrong. Fall and winter are more fun when there’s relevant pro football being played.
Final word: Scoggins
Whatever happens, it’s the Vikings so it won’t be boring.