Sometimes a team achieves as much as it possibly can — and that sentiment applies perfectly to this year’s Vikings.
They won two more regular-season games than a year ago, and as an added bonus pulled a first-round playoff upset at New Orleans. But on Saturday we learned definitively what we probably already knew: This is not a Super Bowl team, rather it’s one of a handful of above-average teams a cut below the best.
In times that are increasingly obsessed with all or nothing — championship or bust — it might be tempting to treat this season as a failure. But these Vikings at least properly achieved, if not overachieved.
Now, having said that: There is still ample room for concern and even disappointment, particularly as pertains to the future of this franchise.
Because this level of achievement certainly wasn’t the goal or the plan two offseasons ago when the Vikings invested $84 million in quarterback Kirk Cousins after coming up just short of the Super Bowl.
Rather, this has become the reality that has grown around a good but flawed roster. The defense has aged just enough to slip from championship-caliber to playoff-worthy — good enough to stymie a Hall of Fame quarterback like Drew Brees, but not great enough to sustain that while being run over by the 49ers.
The Vikings have made much-needed investments in the offensive line, with picks in the top three rounds each of the past three drafts. But it still isn’t nearly good enough to handle top defenses in critical moments, as the 49ers proved in holding Minnesota to just 147 total yards Saturday.
Cousins himself has been stabilizing and has put up strong numbers. When things are clicking and he has time — as he did for enough of the game against New Orleans — he is an asset. But he relies on a supporting cast to elevate him, not vice-versa.
It’s enough to make you wonder: As currently configured, with Cousins as the quarterback, Mike Zimmer as the defensive-minded head coach and Rick Spielman in charge of personnel, was this 2019 Vikings season about as good as things are ever going to get?
There’s no shame in answering “yes” to that question while still resisting the urge to want to tear it all down, just as there’s nothing wrong with a 10-6 season and a playoff win. It’s all a matter of expectations.
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The only way I can see the Vikings making a dramatic improvement next year: A huge upgrade on the offensive line. The problem is it would probably have to come at the expense of other strengths given the Vikings’ salary cap situation or would require home runs in the draft.
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At this time last year, it seemed inconceivable that Miguel Sano would garner enough faith from the Twins to earn a lucrative multiyear contract.
But if the three-year deal (reportedly with a fourth-year team option) turned some heads, so too does the strange negotiation with starting pitcher Jose Berrios.
The Twins and Berrios — who is under team control through the 2022 season — are reportedly less than $400,000 apart on salary terms, and he’s the only top-three starting pitcher guaranteed to be on the roster beyond next season.
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James Holzhauer of “Jeopardy!” fame dropped some friendly shade on fellow Greatest Of All Time participant Brad Rutter on Sunday when the Chiefs fell behind 24-0 to the Texans, saying Kansas City was “out here dropping the ball like it’s a @bradrutter Daily Double.”
Rutter has lost all his money on several failed daily double wagers during the primetime tournament.