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Lunchbreak: CBS Sports Projects Vikings to Win NFC North in 2019

The Vikings have had plenty of success in odd-numbered years of late, as Minnesota went 13-3 and won a division title while advancing to the NFC title game in 2017.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's squad also turned heads in 2015, as the Vikings went 11-5 to win the first NFC North crown in Zimmer's second season in Minnesota.

Jason La Canfora believes the Vikings will continue their recent trend, as the CBS Sports writer recently tabbed **Minnesota to win the NFC North in 2019**.

La Canfora believes a strong defense and timely offense will help carry the Vikings past the Bears, Lions and Packers.

La Canfora wrote:

Kirk Cousins may not ever get them over the mountain, and he may not win huge games, but they will beat enough mediocre teams to win this division. They dealt with mental health and physical health issues on defense in 2018, but Mike Zimmer knows the bar must be set higher on that side of the ball this year, and I expect them to be more consistent and menacing.

Give Cousins a few more leads, and good things happen. I have serious concerns about the new power structure in Green Bay and the Aaron Rodgers/Matt LaFleur coupling could be perilous, and the Bears are the poster boys for 2019 regression to me.

View photos of the Vikings during their third OTA practice on May 23 at TCO Performance Center.

Zimmer's defense has finished in the top nine in points allowed in each of the past four seasons, and has been in the top four of yards allowed per game in each of the past three years.

Minnesota had the league's best defense in 2017, finishing first in points against (15.8) and yards allowed (275.9) per game. But the Vikings allowed 21.3 points per game (ninth) in 2018, and were fourth in yards allowed per game (309.7).

Minnesota went 8-7-1 during an inconsistent 2018 season, missing the playoffs by half a game as the Vikings were never more than two games above, or one game below, .500.

As for the other NFC division winners, La Canfora went with Philadelphia, Seattle and New Orleans. He predicted that the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina will be the Wild Cards.

Cronin predicts story on 2019 Vikings season

It's almost June, which means teams are chugging along in their offseason programs as training camp looms.

Yet as the 2019 season inches closer, organizations and fans alike are already wondering how the coming months will play out.

ESPN's team of NFL beat writers recently laid out their opinions on what the main storyline for each team will be, with Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin noting that the **focus will be on Cousins and the Vikings offense** in 2019.

Cronin wrote:

The Vikings have done everything imaginable to support their quarterback this offseason, putting together a staff to create a scheme best suited to his strengths, placing an emphasis on fixing the O-line and finding new weapons in the draft.

Now it's Cousins' responsibility to improve in areas where he struggled in 2018 and lead this team back to the playoffs. What we'll learn in Cousins' second year in Minnesota is if he can push his ceiling higher. How this season goes will help determine how much longer he'll be the quarterback of the Vikings, given that his deal goes through 2020.

Minnesota elevated Kevin Stefanski as the offensive coordinator, and also brought in a handful of new coaches, including Super Bowl winner Gary Kubiak.

The Vikings used their first four picks in the 2019 Draft on offensive players, including a pair of linemen, a tight end and a running back.

The Vikings also return a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, a veteran tight end in Kyle Rudolph and running back Dalvin Cook, who has flashed big plays when healthy.