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Lunchbreak: Vikings Not Afraid to Face Expectations for 2018 Season

It's no secret the Vikings have lofty aspirations for the upcoming season.

Fresh off a 13-3 record, an NFC North crown and an appearance in the NFC title game, players and coaches have talked openly about embracing expectations for another deep postseason run, all while putting in the work and effort to get there.

Courtney Cronin, ESPN's Vikings reporter, recently wrote that Minnesota appears to be all-in for a shot at a title for this season and beyond, and that the Vikings have good reason to believe so.

Cronin wrote:

Two major injuries early on offense (Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook) didn't stop the Vikings from reaching the NFC Championship Game a year ago. Returning one of the most stacked rosters backed by the strength of the No. 1 defense, Minnesota believed going all-in for Kirk Cousins in free agency would the missing piece to contend for a championship.

The last time Cousins had a supporting cast this good, he completed a career-best 69.8 percent of his passes with 4,166 yards passing and led the Redskins to a playoff berth in 2015. His weapons in Minnesota — Cook, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph — are arguably the best he has ever worked with. The Vikings believe that will guide this franchise in taking the next step toward a title and achieving the quarterback stability they've lacked for more than a decade. The Vikings hope to keep an already good thing going and make themselves even better. That's evident with their strategic salary-cap planning that has allowed the Vikings to widen their Super Bowl window for several seasons with 13 starters under contract through at least 2020.

Offensively, the Vikings feature a bevy of playmakers at the skill positions. And nearly every starter remains on a defense that led the league in points allowed, yards allowed and opponents' third-down percentage in 2017.

Cronin noted that injuries, especially along the offensive line, could be an area that hampers Minnesota's expectations.

But the Vikings have the pieces in place — from the players to the coaching staff to the front office — to make a deep playoff run.

Cousins aces first outing as a Viking

There was plenty of buildup for Kirk Cousins' first appearance as a Viking, even if it was just a preseason game.

But the performance by Minnesota's quarterback would look good no matter what the time of year.

Bucky Brooks thinks Cousins aced his first test. The NFL.com analyst handed out a grade of an 'A' to the Vikings prized free agent signing.

Brooks wrote:

The Vikings' marquee free agent played like an 84 Million Dollar Man in their preseason opener against the Broncos, completing all four of his passes for 42 yards and a score. The veteran passer was sharp tossing the ball to open receivers on a variety of quick-rhythm throws at short and intermediate distances. If No. 8 continues to connect the dots like he did Saturday, the rest of the NFC could have a tough time dealing with the reigning NFC North champs this season.

Cousins led an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive on Minnesota's opening possession in Denver. He finished 4-for-4 for 42 yards and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Diggs, which earned Cousins a quarterback rating of 150.0.

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