The Minnesota Vikings are a week away from their regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints. After a hot start, the Vikings lost eight of their last 11 games last season to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
Here are three predictions for the Vikings this season.
#3. Dalvin Cook will win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award
The team's second-round rookie running back should be able find the hole as a runner and catch the ball as a receiver. He is a three-down back that needs to have the ball in his hands as much as possible. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will make sure that happens. The other top candidates to win the award will not have that luxury.
In terms of skill positions, there were three quarterbacks, two running backs, five wide receivers and three tight ends selected before Cook. Each one of them has a reason they won’t win the award.
The quarterbacks (Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) won’t play enough. The running backs (Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey) will split the carries with T.J. Yeldon and Jonathan Stewart, respectively. The five wide receivers (Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross, Zay Jones and Curtis Samuel) will not have the stats because they will not be the go-to guy on their team. The tight ends (O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and David Njoku) won’t make a big enough impact, as rookie tight ends rarely do.
The combination of talent and opportunity will get Cook the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
#2. Xavier Rhodes will not allow a receiver to reach 100 yards
Rhodes was one of the best cornerbacks in the league last year, limiting opposing wide receivers for most of the season. It won’t be easy, but Rhodes will do it again this season.
If he shadows the opposition’s top receiver every week, he will face several of the league’s best. Rhodes will face Michael Thomas (Saints in Week 1), Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2), Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3), Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers in Week 6), Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons in Week 13), A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15) and Nelson (Packers again in Week 17).
Those six receivers combined for 27 100-yard games, including one 300-yard game, last season. Rhodes will be tested, but will come out fine.
#1. The Vikings will finish second in the NFC North division
The Vikings will start strong this season and have a few hiccups later in the year. Dropping five of their last eight games, including a loss at Lambeau Field to the Packers in Week 16, will cost them the division and a playoff berth. They will lose out on the second wild card spot to the Dallas Cowboys because of tiebreakers.