The regular season is upon us. The Vikings open the 2017 season in style, hosting the New Orleans Saints on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The season's first game and the pomp and circumstance surrounding it has provided plenty of storylines. Here's a preview of five of them.
1. Adrian Peterson returns to Minnesota
Don't those schedule makers have an interesting sense of humor? The first game Adrian Peterson plays not as a member of the Vikings is against….the Vikings. And it's on Monday Night Football. But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was right earlier in the week when he said this game is not only about Adrian Peterson. It's about the Vikings and the Saints. Drew Brees (more on him in a bit), Everson Griffen, Dalvin Cook (more on him in a bit, too), Harrison Smith, Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas…they will have an impact on this game, too.
2. Dalvin's debut
Adrian Peterson's departure from Minnesota opened up an opportunity for the Vikings to pounce on one of the draft's best players – running back Dalvin Cook. The former Florida State star is now poised to be a featured component in the Vikings offense, joining free agent signing Latavius Murray and veteran Jerick McKinnon in the backfield. The Vikings didn't get enough production out of the RB position last season, and Cook appears to be ready to change that for the 2017 Vikings. He makes his Vikings and NFL debut on the big stage, a place in which he's always produced. Cook had some of his best games against Florida State's biggest opponents, earning game MVP honors in the Orange Bowl last year and totaling 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns against rival Clemson. He'll have a chance to start his NFL career off in the same manner this week.
3. Vikings feature new-look offensive line in 2017
The Vikings will have only one starting offensive lineman on Monday night who was in the starting lineup in Week 1 last season, and he won't even be in the same spot. Joe Berger started at center in 2016 and he looks to be the starting right guard for Monday night. Every other spot features a fresh face, including free agent signings at left tackle (Riley Reiff) and right tackle (Mike Remmers), a rookie at center (Pat Elflein) and Nick Easton moving from center to left guard. The interior – Easton-Elflein-Berger – operated well together in the Vikings third preseason game and they'll look to build on that throughout the season while Reiff and Remmers continue to get acclimated to the team. While this group may lack synergy at the moment, they are a dedicated and gritty group who have an opportunity to grow together starting right now and continually improve as the season progresses. It all starts for them on Monday night.
4. Don't forget about Brees!
You can get caught up in the Peterson storyline, but don't forget about New Orleans' best player – quarterback Drew Brees. A future Hall of Famer, Brees holds or is approaching every major statistical passing record in Saints history and he'll no doubt be among the best in League history when he retires. Brees is precise, smart, aggressive and tough – everything you want in a quarterback. If the focus is too heavy on Peterson and the ground game, Brees and the passing game will thrive. Watch out for #9!
5. Randy Moss goes into Vikings Ring of Honor
The atmosphere inside U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night will be electric. Season and home opener. Monday Night Football. Adrian Peterson returns to Minnesota. And Randy Moss is going into the Vikings Ring of Honor. Moss is one of the team's all-time greats and he's an absolute fan favorite. He'll be on-hand as part of ESPN's coverage, but also to be honored as the 22nd member of the Ring of Honor.