Week 1 by the numbers
The Vikings certainly had a tumultuous year in 2016. Minnesota began their first season in their new U.S. Bank Stadium without quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who tore his ACL and dislocated his knee in a preseason practice, and then lost future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson to a knee injury in the team’s first home game.
But with veteran QB Sam Bradford under center and running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata in the backfield, the Vikings rattled off five straight victories thanks to a top defense that held opposing offenses to an average of 12.6 points over the team’s first five games. However, as the season wore on, Minnesota’s defensive unit was unable to make up for the team’s lackluster offensive attack, which resulted in eight losses in their final 11 games.
However, Minnesota improved on both sides of the ball in 2017, and finished the season with 13 victories. While their defense was a top-10 unit in 2016, they were one of the league’s best groups in 2017, holding opponents to a league-low 252 points and 4,415 total yards.
Under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the Vikings’ 2017 offense showed improved efficiency in the run game, and particularly in the passing game, which ranked third in the league, per Football Outsiders. Under Shurmur’s leadership, veteran backup QB Case Keenum posted a career-high 98.3 passer rating in 2017, which helped Shurmur earn Assistant Coach of the Year honors, and a head coaching job with the New York Giants.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, their Super Bowl run was cut short after two subpar playoff performances by Keenum. After the “Minnesota Miracle” gave Keenum a chance at redemption, the QB reverted to his previous backup-caliber form during a 31-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
Once Shurmur left for New York, the Vikings hired Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo as the team’s new offensive coordinator, before signing Cousins to replace Keenum. Since DeFlippo’s only professional offensive coordinator experience was a single season with the hapless 2016 Cleveland Browns, it will be interesting to see whether the 2018 combination of DeFillipo and Cousins is an upgrade over Shurmur and Keenum in 2017.
Las Vegas sportsbooks predict Minnesota to take a step back this season — likely due to improved competition thanks to the return of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers — given the Vikings’ projected win total of 11 games.