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Lunchbreak: Barnwell Outlines Paths to Super Bowl LV for Vikings & Others

The 2020 NFL season kicks off tonight, and optimism reigns supreme for all 32 teams as they begin their quest for a championship.

With the season opening with tonight's Texans-Chiefs matchup in Kansas City,'s Bill Barnwell chose to look at how each organization could find itself in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV in February.

Before he dove into the teams, Barnwell explained the framework around his article.

In this exercise, we try to find a plausible scenario in which each and every NFL team could win a championship. Since teams can't win unless they get into the postseason, many of these write-ups detail how a team could exceed expectations and end up in an advantageous situation come January.

As for the Vikings, they ranked 13th on Barnwell's list of teams with the best chances to reach the Super Bowl. Minnesota was listed with a 53.8-percent chance to reach the postseason — the highest among all NFC North teams — plus a 1.9-percent chance to make it to the Super Bowl.

Barnwell laid out his case for the Vikings:

Vikings fans might argue that the rebuilt defense of 2020 could be an upgrade on the last run of Mike Zimmer's former core in 2019. Minnesota let longtime contributors Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen and Trae Waynes all leave this offseason, but Rhodes and Waynes didn't play well, and Griffen is now ably replaced in the lineup by trade acquisition Yannick Ngakoue. If rookie first-rounder Jeff Gladney can step onto the field and play like an NFL-caliber corner in September, the Vikings could actually be better on defense.

Offense seems a little more difficult after they traded away wide receiver Stefon Diggs, although they used a first-round pick on LSU star Justin Jefferson and should get a healthier season from Adam Thielen, who missed the better part of eight games a season ago. The best-case scenario for the Vikings is a healthy campaign from Dalvin Cook, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 102.9 rushing yards per game in the first half of 2019, only to fade badly, deal with injuries and average 3.3 yards per carry and 52 yards per game afterward. If the Packers decline, Minnesota is the best-positioned team to win the NFC North.

The Vikings went 10-6 and were a Wild Card team a season ago, winning a road playoff game against the Saints before losing in the Divisional Round to the 49ers.

Minnesota has won 50 total regular-season games in the past five seasons under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, a stretch that includes three total playoff appearances and a pair of NFC North titles in 2015 and 2017.

According to Barnwell, the Packers have the 17th-best chance to win it all. Minnesota and Green Bay meet Sunday in Week 1 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Chicago was listed 18th overall, while Detroit was 26th.

Kansas City, which won Super Bowl LIV, was the top team on Barnwell's list. The Chiefs have a 94-percent chance to make the playoffs and a 21.1-percent chance to win it all.

New Orleans was the top-ranked NFC team in Barnwell's piece. The Saints were at a 91.2-percent chance to make the playoffs and a 16.1-percent chance to win it all.

Harrison Smith launches annual Big Tackles campaign

Harrison Smith's versatility at safety allows him to line up all over the field.

That skill set will also continue to help support Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities, as Smith is once again supporting the organization with his annual Big Tackles campaign.

Smith announced the initiative earlier this week:

I'm thrilled to announce the return of my BIG TACKLES campaign, which supports area youth and Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities.

Together with your pledge, every tackle I make during the 2020 season provides financial support to help kids facing adversity reach their potential. Last year, we raised over $72,000 – and I'm expecting 2020 to be an even BIGGER year on and off the field!

Those looking to support Smith can go here to pledge money for each of Smith's tackles in 2020.

Smith made his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl in 2019, becoming the 13th player who has made five consecutive Pro Bowls while with the Vikings.