The 2019 season is nearly upon us, as the Vikings kick things off Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium against Atlanta. Kickoff is at noon (CT).
ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin did a deep dive on the team prior to the season opener, looking at key storylines and players that will have an impact on how the season plays out over the next four months.
Cronin also tabbed Minnesota's most important game in 2019, going with the Vikings Week 4 road game against the Bears in Chicago.
In Week 4, Minnesota travels to Soldier Field, a place that has yielded some less-than-stellar performances over the years. In Week 17, the Vikings host the Bears to close the season. The early game against Chicago provides a measuring stick while the last game of the season could have a trip to the playoffs on the line like last year.
Minnesota has won two of its past four trips to the Windy City, getting victories in 2017 and 2015. The Vikings had lost seven straight games in Chicago before the 2015 win.
Cronin opined that Minnesota's defense needs to play better than it did in 2018, but noted that it is Minnesota's offense that could turn heads this season, as she predicted the Vikings will have a top-5 rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook.
This outside zone scheme is going to bring out the best in Dalvin Cook and Minnesota's deep corps of running backs. Offensive line coach Rick Dennison, who is the run-game coordinator, will help Cook become a 1,000-yard rusher while also contributing to the passing game. Minnesota will go from the bottom of the league to one of the NFL's most efficient rushing offenses.
Cook has 969 rushing yards in 15 career games, and has been a playmaker when he hasn't missed time due to injuries.
Cronin also believes the Vikings will be in contention for a postseason berth based on the talent on both sides of the ball.
Thielen makes The Athletic's 'All-Cut Team'
If at first you don't succeed, try again.
Adam Thielen knows that mantra well, as the Vikings wide receiver has risen from a rookie tryout participant to one of the league's top players at his position.
Mike Sando of The Athletic recently put together an All-Cut Team comprised of offensive players that were cut at some point in their careers, only to flourish later on.
Thielen was one of five wide receivers on the list, as he was cut by the Vikings in 2013 but spent the entirety of that season on the practice squad.
The Vikings kept Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Joe Webb as receivers on their initial 53-man roster back in 2013. Since then, Thielen has 293 receptions for 3,897 yards and 19 touchdowns — between 50 and 60 percent of the combined totals for those other receivers Minnesota kept on its 2013 roster. Thielen ranks sixth among all NFL players in receiving yards over the past two seasons.
Thielen has recorded at least 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, and he has earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in back-to-back years.
NFL Kickoff | We Ready
The kickoff for #NFL100 is here and we only have two words - WE READY! Don't miss the season opener Green Bay Packers taking on the Chicago Bears on Thursday, September 9th at 7:20 PM CT