As the days tick away toward the season opener, ESPN.com writer Ben Goessling went through the Vikings schedule and picked wins and losses for each game.
Goessling projected double-digit wins for Minnesota with a 10-6 record, including a 5-1 mark against NFC North foes. He expects the Vikings to rely on their stout defense and the skills of running back Adrian Peterson after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the season with a knee injury.
His prediction includes a win Sunday in Tennessee.
The Vikings' opener in Nashville, Tennessee, shouldn't be seen as a cakewalk, considering the Titans should be improved from a 3-13 record a year ago. But if the Vikings can get a lead, their defense can take advantage of an offensive line that allowed the 11th-most pressures in the league last season, and Peterson could have a solid day against the NFL's 18th-ranked rushing defense from a year ago.
Goessling thinks Minnesota's slate of home games could determine if the Vikings make it back to the playoffs after winning the NFC North in 2015. Minnesota hosts three playoff teams from last season — Green Bay, Houston and Arizona — at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.
He also looked at other storylines involving the Vikings for 2016 and said a third-year player could be a big X-factor this season.
Running back Jerick McKinnon blossomed into a contributor in both the rushing and passing games late last season, and the Vikings figure to have a bigger role for him in 2016. McKinnon could be asked to spell Peterson at times, but the Vikings can also get him the ball in a number of different ways, including lining him up as a receiver.
NFL.com: Zimmer could be Coach of the Year
A panel of NFL.com analysts recently predicted the individual awards for the upcoming season.
Heath Evans, a former fullback who spent 10 seasons in the NFL, picked out a familiar name for his choice for Coach of the Year.
Evans said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer should get the award if he steers Minnesota back to the playoffs after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the season.
In Zimmer's press conference Tuesday, he stressed that despite losing Teddy Bridgewater (to a major knee injury), people shouldn't count his team out. I'm with him. I believe Zimmer is going to lead this team to the playoffs again, even without its starting QB.
Zimmer is entering his third season at the helm in Minnesota and has an 18-14 record. He helped lead the Vikings to the NFC North title last season.