One week at a time.
There's a long way between tonight's NFL Season Opener and Super Bowl LVI, which will kick off on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium.
Some teams are of course more favored than others in this year's race to the Lombardi Trophy, but ESPN's Bill Barnwell recently made a case for each of the 32 teams to win it all this season. He wrote:
Obviously, these teams don't have an equal chance of celebrating in Los Angeles next February. According to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI), the four top Super Bowl contenders on paper have nearly a 50 [percent] chance of winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Bucs had a 3.8 [percent] shot of winning the title last season.
In terms of probability, Barnwell ranked the Vikings 15th overall with a 2.1-percent chance to win Super Bowl LVI, with a 45.4-percent chance of making the playoffs.
Odd year Vikings! Minnesota has gone 34-14 (.708) in odd years under [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer but only 30-33-1 (.477) in even years, including 7-9 last season. Disappointingly for one of the league's best defensive coaches, it was the defense that did in this team. After never ranking lower than 11thin points allowed in any season under Zimmer, the Vikings ranked a woeful 29th. Injuries and COVID-19 opt-outs kept their stars off the field, as Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Michael Pierce and Eric Kendricks combined to play just 13 games all season.
"Enter the calvary," Barnwell wrote.
The Vikings added Dalvin Tomlinson, Sheldon Richardson, Xavier Woods, Bashaud Breeland and Patrick Peterson to the fold this offseason. Everything seems on the table for them. If the returning veterans fix the defense and – insert annual text here – the offensive line is finally fixed, they could have one of the league's most talented and comprehensive rosters.
Where the Vikings will be in trouble, Barnwell noted, is if the "defensive vets don't plug holes," if rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw doesn't return from injury and if there's tension among teammates or between players and coaches.
Barnwell topped his list with the Chiefs, who have played in the past two Super Bowls and earned a ring for LIV. Entering the 2021 campaign, Kansas City has an 89.4-percent chance of participating in the postseason and a 19.2-percent chance of winning the Super Bowl behind star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Cousins tabbed among QBs with 'something to prove' in 2021
Former sports agent and current CBS Sports contributor Joel Corry believes 12 quarterbacks across the league have “something to prove” in the 2021 season.
Among the QBs highlighted by Corry in a recent article is Minnesota's Kirk Cousins, who is entering his fourth season in Purple. Corry opined that, since signing with the Vikings as a free agent in Spring 2018, Cousins "hasn't quite lived up to expectations." He wrote:
The Vikings have only made the playoffs once in Cousins' three seasons in Minnesota. By contrast, the Vikings played in the NFC Championship Game during the 2017 season, prior to Cousins' arrival, with journeyman Case Keenum at quarterback.
Corry pointed out that the Vikings drafted former Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the third round this year, which means the team "could be ready to move on" when Cousins' contract expires after the 2022 campaign. Corry also mentioned that Minnesota could opt to move Cousins via trade following the 2021 season.
"He was already subject to a five-day quarantine period as a close contact" early on in training camp, Corry wrote.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Sept. 13, 2021.
Corry included four quarterbacks on his list the Vikings are slated to face this season: Matthew Stafford (Rams), Baker Mayfield (Browns), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers) and Jared Goff (Lions). Stafford joined the Rams via trade this offseason after 12 seasons in Detroit, who acquired Goff in the deal.
Stafford has been considered a victim of poor circumstance by many where only making the playoffs three times (without any victories) in a 12-year NFL career is largely a result of the Lions mismanagement. He is now viewed as the missing piece for a Rams team that had the NFL's best defense in 2020.