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Monday Morning Mailbag: Training Camp Battles

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How do you account for the fact that Harrison Smith was not included in NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2015 list? I'm dismayed by this unjust treatment of Smith! What gives?  -- Ali Haidar

There's really no accounting for it. Smith is one of the NFL's top 100 players and there's not really an argument that can be made against that. My sense is the discrepancy happens because it's a player-voted list. Let's say, for example, the Top 100 is generated by tabulating all ballots submitted by players but that the players are each asked to list their top 20 players rather than taking the time and effort to author a true Top 100 list. In that scenario, there would be many players, such as Smith, who wouldn't appear in enough Top 20 lists to make the ultimate Top 100 list but who if every player truly did fill out a Top 100 would actually make the cut. ­

I have been a Vikings fans my whole life but I have never been to a NFL game. After years of putting it off, this year I am going! Here is my question/dilemma: I can only go to one game and I cannot decide what game is going to be the best one to attend. If you could only choose one home game to attend this year, what game would you attend and why? -- Remington Lanenga Brookings, SD

* *It's tough to advocate against the Packers matchup in Week 11 or against a visit from the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks two weeks later. And you can't go wrong in seeing a home opener (Detroit – Week 2) or in seeing a QB like Philip Rivers (Week 3). But I would suggest exercising some patience and securing a spot for the Week 16 matchup against the Giants. The Giants are not an opponent we are guaranteed to see every year, it'll be the final outdoor home game in the foreseeable future, it will be a good, old-fashioned cold-weather game, and it will hopefully contain playoff implications for the Vikings.

By the way, for anyone who hasn't done so, you can secure your spot at a Vikings home game in 2015 by clicking here or calling 612-33-VIKES.

Who do you think will have the best unexpected season this year? -- Cage Patterson

Robert Blanton. My sense is most fans and observers are looking for the Vikings to upgrade at his position, which is a fair opinion. But to me, Blanton will wind up winning a start job at safety and I think he'll display improvement from last year's performance, which was good enough on its own and yielded 111 tackles, third-highest on the team.

Since the right guard position is a question this offseason, who do you see making the leap in training camp to lock down the position, and why? -- Aric Hamilton Gregory, SD

With the caveats that this position battle remains undecided and that my opinion is subject to change, I will arrive in Mankato for training camp this year with TJ Clemmings penciled into the starting lineup. Again, all that means is I think he'll take the first snap of the first practice with the first team at RG. What happens over the ensuing three weeks is what will determine who takes the first snap of the first regular season game at RG.

I've been a Vikings fan for 17 years and I haven't been this excited about the team and coaching staff in years! How many games do you project the Vikings will win and if they make the playoffs could they surprise a lot of teams? -- Evan Morgan

I don't predict or project the Vikings record with any sort of specificity because it's just a fruitless exercise in general and particularly at this juncture with training camps still on the horizon. But I will point out that the Vikings won seven games last season and six of those seven wins came with a rookie playing QB and without Adrian Peterson on the field. Also, the Vikings lost five games by one possession. With Teddy Bridgewater no longer a rookie and poised to show improvement in his second season, with Peterson back in the fold, and with the addition of talented players such as Eric Kendricks, Terence Newman, Trae Waynes and Mike Wallace, I think the Vikings are a more talented team now than they were in Week 17 last season and I think that will yield an increased win total in 2015.

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