They were one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments this past season. What five questions must the Minnesota Vikings answer if they are to rebound in 2019?
Stop if you’ve heard this one before. Over the past 40-plus seasons, there was a notion by some that that the Minnesota Vikings were “one player away” from getting back to the Super Bowl. Back in 1988, it was former Steelers’ linebacker Mike Merriweather. One year later, the team swung that historic trade with the Dallas Cowboys for running back Herschel Walker. In each instance, the Purple Gang failed to reach even the NFC title game.
A little over a year ago, the franchise invested heavily into free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Vikings inked the former Washington Redskins’ field general to a three-year, $84 million deal that was fully guaranteed. Off a strong 13-3 showing in 2017 and a berth in the conference championship tilt, some felt (with apologies to journeyman Case Keenum) that the club may be a solid signal-caller away from getting back to the “Big Game” for the first time since night from 1976.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the case as the team in general never really found its groove throughout 2018. The club addressed some of its issues this off season. So what questions need to be asked and answered if the team is to return to the playoffs for the third time in five years?
5. Can Mike Zimmer’s team solve the Chicago Bears?
The Purple Gang entered 2018 having prevailed in six of the previous seven meetings with their longtime division rivals from the Windy City. Of course, the Chicago Bears went out last summer and added Khalil Mack to a defensive unit that was already on the rise.
Thanks in large part to that defense, the eventual NFC North champions swept the Vikings for the first time since 2011. There was a 25-20 Sunday night victory at Soldier Field in Week 11, followed by a 24-10 win at Minnesota on the final day of the ’18 regular season. A victory by the Vikings would have put them back in the playoffs for a second straight year. But Mike Zimmer’s offense was limited to 164 total yards in the 14-point loss.
Perhaps the most damning and concerning number was Chicago’s ability to run the football and prevent Minnesota from doing the same. In the two losses, Zimmer’s squad was outgained a combined 317-85 in rushing yards. So can the Vikings re-establish their dominance in this rivalry?