By Michael Eccleston
Attention everyone: No matter how much hype they receive because of the history of their franchise, along with the fact that they have arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, the NFC North is no longer owned by the Green Bay Packers.
Even though their year ended with heartbreak, one missed field goal doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the Minnesota Vikings have arrived. This team is young and hungry, they’re flying under the radar, and that is exactly where they should want to be.
The Vikings are unique because they’re one of the very few teams who still value their running game first, and it’s completely understandable because they have one of the greatest runningbacks in the history of the NFL in Adrian Peterson. A ground and pound approach with a great defense behind you can absolutely still win in the NFL. When people think of the Vikings, they think of Peterson, but they’re building a team that will be able to beat you in many different ways, which is scary to think about…
23 year old Teddy Bridgewater was pressured more than any QB in the league last year. That is a fact. And still, he consistently made smart decisions that proved to me that he can be a winning quarterback in the NFL. Second year wide receiver Stefon Diggs had an outstanding rookie year last season, catching 52 passes for 720 yards and 4 touchdowns in just 13 games. Diggs made this jaw-dropping catch in training camp just the other day:
Diggs is exactly what the Vikings have lacked for so many years: A young talented wide receiver who has the potential to be one of the better, more reliable ones in the league. Not bad for a 5th round pick, right? There’s talk of him seeing time in the slot this season.
Third year receiver Charles Johnson and rookie Laquon Treadwell are most likely going to see a lot of time on the field along with Diggs. Johnson is looking to stay healthy, and Treadwell, like any other rookie, is out to prove that he is the best receiver of his draft class. The Vikings are a run first team, so a first year player like Treadwell won’t get too much attention, especially early on in the season, but I expect him to show flashes of greatness here and there. Minnesota’s passing game is still a work in progress because of how young these guys are, but it is making progress. “Teddy two gloves” will have a lot to work with as long as the offensive line can get healthy and improve.
Now, on the defensive side of the ball… I mean, from the defensive line with guys like Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph, to linebackers like Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, to the secondary with young talent like cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes along with a veteran pickup like Terence Newman, and free safety Harrison Smith, this defense is locked and loaded. Anyone who watched them play last season knows how physical they are and how quickly they fly around to create turnovers. Sounds like a typical Mike Zimmer defense. Zimmer has transformed the Vikings from a team that really didn’t have much outside of Peterson and had one of the worst defenses in football to a team that has the potential to be one of the best teams in the league for years to come. He deserves all the credit in the world.
Outside of the Packers having Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, I would challenge anyone to tell me where the Packers are clearly better than the Vikings… Last season was no fluke. This team is here to stay, and with their new stadium, they will be even more hungry to start this era off with a bang. If Minnesota’s offensive line can hold up, this team will be a force to be reckoned with, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t win the NFC North.