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Bleacher Report – Vikings

With Cousins under center, how do the Vikings stack up against their 2018 opponents?

By Matthew Coller

With Kirk Cousins set to sign on the dotted line and lock himself in as the Minnesota Vikings’ franchise quarterback, the Vikings now have sky high expectations.

But the road back to the NFC Championship game and beyond won’t be easy as Minnesota’s schedule is filled with teams who were either strong last year or have made key offseason moves.

With many of the biggest names in free agency signed, let’s have a look at how the Vikings match up against each 2018 opponent.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Key moves: Signed TE Trey Burton, WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, did not pick up option on G Josh Sitton

How they stack up:

The Bears are aiming to follow the Los Angeles Rams’ path from a team struggling with its top-pick QB and old school coach to a contender in Mitch Trubisky’s sophomore year. Chicago didn’t give the rookie much to work with in Year 1, but Burton, Robinson and Gabriel will provide him with plenty of weapons. The Bears’ defense should still be solid. They might not appear to be a playoff team yet, but the Vikings should expect to face a more competitive offense in 2018.

Advantage: Vikings

Green Bay Packers

Key moves: DT Mo Wilkerson, TE Jimmy Graham, cut WR Jordy Nelson

How they stack up:

Getting Aaron Rodgers back should make all the difference for the Packers’ playoff chances, but thus far, Green Bay hasn’t done him many favors. They are relying on two free agent players that have been sub-par the last two seasons to find their old magic. Cutting Jordy Nelson probably didn’t do anything to inspire Rodgers either. Green Bay’s defense finished 22nd in yards allowed and 26th in points against. Even if they take a step forward, it’s hard to see the Packers’ defense as dominating. Rodgers can cover up a lot of problems. Unfortunately for Green Bay, they still have a lot of problems.

Advantage: Even

Detroit Lions

Key moves: Cut TE Eric Ebron, sign corner DeShawn Shead, sign LB Devon Kennard

How they stack up:

The biggest offseason move for the Lions was changing coaches. After ranking 18th, 18th and 27th in yards allowed the last three years, Detroit sought out a defensive head coach in Matt Patricia, the former New England D-coordinator. The Lions went 9-7 season and deserve to feel like they are in the mix with Matthew Stafford coming off a terrific season in which he threw 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and posted a 99.3 rating. Detroit’s offensive line and receiving corps is stacked and they will likely sign a veteran RB and draft a tight end to replace Ebron.

Advantage: Slight edge to Vikings

Home Opponents

Arizona Cardinals

Key moves: Signed QB Sam Bradford, cut DB Tyrann Mathieu

How they stack up:

Vikings fans are aware of Bradford’s talent, but the Cardinals need a lot of work to have any shot in the NFC West. Last year, veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald managed 109 receptions. The next best Cards receiver had 33 catches. Getting David Johnson back won’t solve every problem unless the Cardinals can improve their offensive line. Arizona does return a strong defense, but less strong without their playmaking DB Tyrann Mathieu.

Advantage: Vikings

San Francisco 49ers

Key moves: Re-sign QB Jimmy Garappolo, CB Richard Sherman, RB Jerick McKinnon, C Weston Richburg

How they stack up:

The 49ers could make a huge jump from 5-11 to becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Jimmy Garappolo flashed a ton of potential after arriving in San Francisco and the 49ers are spending some of their oodles of cap space on key free agents. With creative coach Kyle Shanahan, McKinnon has a chance to fully maximize his skills and the 49ers’ defense should improve from 24th in yards and 25th in points against.

Advantage: Slight edge to Vikings

New Orleans Saints

Key moves: Re-signed Drew Brees, signed CB Patrick Robinson, LB Demario Davis

How they stack up:

Brees made it quite clear that he hasn’t lost a step last season when he led the NFL in yards per attempt and completion percentage. New Orleans’ offense is built around its two terrific running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. It seems likely they will draft more playmakers to give him more receiving talent than just Michael Thomas. The Saints’ defense took huge steps forward in 2017, ranking 10th in points against. Overall they are among the best of the best.

Advantage: Slight edge to Saints

Buffalo Bills

Key moves: Signed QB AJ McCarron, traded LT Cordy Glenn to move up in the draft

How they stack up:

After making the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, the Bills traded their quarterback and left tackle. It appears to be a dead lock that they will trade up into the top five to select one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. In a weak AFC, Buffalo might be able to make another playoff run if their rookie QB or McCarron puts together a good season, but they don’t have the roster to compete with the Vikings.

Advantage: Vikings

Miami Dolphins

Key moves: Cut Ndamukong Suh, released Julius Thomas, traded Jarvis Landry to Cleveland

How they stack up:

When the biggest moves of the offseason are losing Pro Bowl players, that’s probably not a great sign. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have a shot to get his career back on track after missing last year with a knee injury, but it appears that Miami is in rebuild mode.

Advantage: Vikings

Away Opponents

Los Angeles Rams

Key moves: Traded for CB Aqib Talib, re-signed Nickel Robey-Coleman, signed CB Sam Shields, franchise tag LaMarcus Joyner, trade LB Alec Ogletree to the Giants

The Rams finished last season with the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL and the 12th best in points allowed. While they lost Sammy Watkins in free agency, the core of the top offense has stayed in place, including stars Todd Gurley and Robert Woods along with budding QB Jared Goff. Los Angeles has made an effort to stack up its secondary following the loss of Trumaine Johnson. With an improved secondary and quarterback on the rise, the Rams will be among the favorites to win the NFC.

How they stack up: Even

Seattle Seattle

Key moves: Cut CB Richard Sherman, traded DE Michael Bennett to Philadelphia, signed Barkevious Mingo

How they stack up:

The Seahawks were a few kicks away from the playoffs, but fell short and now appear to be sliding down the NFC power rankings. With the exit of Sherman and Bennett it’s tough to argue Seattle has a top-notch defense as they have had for most of the last decade. Receiver Paul Richardson left in free agency and the Seahawks still don’t appear to have a plan to fix their offensive line, save for drafting another lineman this year. Russell Wilson will make them relevant, but the Seahawks have an uphill climb to be a serious contender.

Advantage: Vikings

New England Patriots

Key moves: Re-signed Rex Burkhead

How they stack up:

Let’s start by saying: Never count out Tom Brady. And follow up with: What are the Patriots doing this offseason? They have let their starting left tackle walk out the door, top running back Dion Lewis and – unsurprisingly – cornerback Malcolm Butler and made little attempt to improve the roster otherwise. Tom may continue to beat time, but his defense isn’t going to stop much without improvement, especially since DC Matt Patricia left.

Advantage: Vikings

New York Jets

Key moves: Signed QB Josh McCown, QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Trumaine Johnson, center Spencer Long

How they stack up:

If Teddy Bridgewater can return to the 2015 version, the Jets may have come away with a steal in free agency, signing him to a one-year deal that could be worth as much as $15 million. But Bridgewater will have to prove it first – and there’s likely a reason the Vikings let him walk. They could just be getting started with Johnson and Long signings. New York still has money to burn. The Jets remain a candidate to select a top quarterback in the draft, but if they go another direction or trade down, New York could continue to make progress in its rebuild.

Advantage: Vikings

Philadelphia Eagles

Key moves: Re-sign LB Nigel Bradham, trade for DE Michael Bennett, trade for CB Daryl Worley, sign Haloti Ngata

How they stack up:

The champs have lost a few good players in CB Patrick Robinson and TE Trey Burton, but they are still the best team in the NFL. Philly will bring back a dominant offensive line that shut down the Vikings’ pass rush in the NFC title game along with a defensive line that can rush the passer with the best teams in the NFL. Assuming Carson Wentz picks up where he left off, the Eagles will have an MVP-caliber quarterback. Replacing Burton, LeGarrette Blount and Torrey Smith will be priorities, but most of his supporting cast will be back.

Advantage: Eagles

The post With Cousins under center, how do the Vikings stack up against their 2018 opponents? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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