When the Eagles traded up for NDSU Quarterback Carson Wentz in the April draft, Sam Bradford was not thrilled. Bradford, who finished the 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles in good fashion, demanded to be traded. Understandably, NFL teams balked at what it would cost to get Bradford, as NJ.com reported, it was going to cost, “more than a second round pick.” Fast forward to Tuesday, August 31st: The Eagles got more than they could ever bargain for by trading Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2017 1st round pick and a 2018 4th round pick.
Bradford has never lit up the league or taken any teams to the playoffs, but in his defense, the playmakers around him over his years with the Rams and his one year with the Eagles were rather non existent. The best name to come out of that group was Danny Amendola in St.Louis. Bradford now goes to a team with Charles Johnson and Stefon Diggs on the outside, Kyle Rudolph at TE, and Adrian Peterson in the backfield. There’s also Laquon Treadwell waiting in the wings to take over Charles Johnson’s starting spot.
Several talking heads in the NFL considered the Vikings to be contenders for the Super Bowl with Bridgewater under center and now there’s no reason why Minnesota couldn’t have the same hopes and dreams. Mike Zimmer has built the Vikings to be a contender with an old school style of ball. Zimmer is going to grind Adrian Peterson to the bone with Jerrick McKinnon as a change of pace running back. It doesn’t hurt that the defense is filled with young studs (Barr, Smith, Floyd, Kendricks, Hunter) and savvy veterans (Newman, Griffen, Joseph) and were at the top of the league last year in points allowed (17.1 per game).
When news broke about QB Teddy Bridgewater’s injury last Tuesday, I immediately was banging the drum for Colin Kaepernick to get to Minnesota. The idea of Kaepernick, McKinnon, and Peterson coming out of the backfield and making people look foolish with their legs sounded really intriguing over potential vanilla veterans that Vikings’ offensive coordinator Norv Turner has worked with: Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer, or current backup Shaun Hill. Most people around the league never thought that Vikings General Manager, Rick Spielman, would make such a bold trade to try and save the season. Bradford does’t need to put up elite stats for the Vikings to contend for a playoff birth. Zimmer is going to preach ball control and mistake-free football. It’s exactly how Zimmer wants Teddy Bridgewater to run the offensive unit. Bradford can do the same, and arguably push the ball down field a bit better.
Here’s an interesting fact from Pro Football Focus: “Last season, Bradford played with the worst receiving corps in the league, a group that dropped 7.6 percent of his passes to lead the league. He missed all of 2014, and while there was some early-season rust, he was one of the top-graded quarterbacks during the second half of the season. On the year, he actually finished 12th in PFF quarterback grades, at 85.3, one spot ahead of 13th-place Bridgewater at 82.6.”
Spielman was indeed bold with this move, but the Vikings are built to go deep into the playoffs now. It’s not so much that they don’t trust Shaun Hill to win a couple of games, but I don’t think the front office viewed him as a 16 game starter and remaining healthy. Bradford has been bitten by the injury bug since joining the NFL, but he won’t have to throw as much with the Vikings. My only concern is that the Vikings run the most plays with 7-step drop backs and frequently use the play-action pass. Getting Bradford up to speed on the playbook will be a priority for the Vikings and we’ll more than likely see Hill split reps with Bradford during practices. Another thing to consider: Bridgewater may not be ready to go next season.
One major plus going for Bradford in Minnesota is that tight ends coach, Pat Shurmur, was Bradford’s offensive coordinator during his rookie campaign in 2010 with St.Louis and his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia last year. Although Shurmur doesn’t call the plays, I am guessing that Shurmur and Norv Turner can help Bradford with the playbook and the terminology at an accelerated rate. For me, this doesn’t stink of another Josh Freeman disaster.
One thing that the Vikings will miss with Teddy Bridgewater being out: mobility in and out of the pocket. Teddy Bridgewater has underrated wheels and elusiveness and the fact is Bradford just doesn’t match up with him there. I had the Vikings at 11-5 with Bridgewater as the QB, but I think they drop off a game to go 10-6, but still make the wildcard spot for the playoffs.
Take a deep breathe Vikings fans….it’s either going to be a really smooth or really rocky flight.
Technically, free agency isn’t over, but the big name signings (Anquan Boldin, where you at?) are over. The draft was a month ago and now I’ve had time to process how the Vikings will do against their 2016 opponents.
Week 1 @ Titans
USA Today recently ranked Mike Mularkey as the worst head coach in the NFL. I have to agree here and the move to hire him as the head coach is baffling. The Vikings will start out slow but explode in the 2nd half. Harrison Smith returns a Marcus Mariota interception for a TD early in the 4th quarter that seals the game. Treadwell scores his first NFL touchdown on a 5 yard back shoulder fade. Vikings win 31-17
Week 2 vs Packers
I don’t like the fact that the Green Bay Packers are the new stadium home opener at all. The Packers will be coming off a blowout win against the Jaguars and be extra confident in thinking they’ll spoil Minnesota’s big night. However, this isn’t the cutesy Leslie Frazier era of Vikings football. Vikings can win a close game here versus Green Bay. This game screams “Adrian Peterson rushes 20-160-2” stat line. Rodgers keeps it close with some ridiculous throws late but the Vikings get a critical sack from Everson Griffen on 4th down to seal it up. Vikings win 21-18
Look for more of this.
Week 3 @ Panthers
Carolina is easily the most well rounded team in the NFC and it’s not even close. Cam Newton had a fantastic MVP campaign in 2015 and he continues to roll coming into week 3 versus the Vikings. The Vikings can hang with Carolina, much like they did vs Denver in week 4 last year, but Carolina’s weapons will be too much for the Vikings. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess (aka Fun-Fun according to Cam Newton) will make Rhodes and Newman look silly in a tight contest. Cam Newton gives the Vikings fits by rushing for 60 yards and a score. Vikings can expose the middle of the field (if Kuechly is blitzing) with crossing routes and deep posts with WR Stefon Diggs. Vikings lose 27-23
Week 4 vs Giants
Ah, I’m sure the world is waiting for a Giants vs Vikings primetime match up. The last two times these two teams have met in primetime? 2015: The Vikings obliterated the Odell Beckham Jr.-less Giants 49-17 on Sunday Night Football. 2013: THE JOSH FREEMAN MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GAME. Holy hell, does anyone remember that game? I was on tour in Providence, RI watching this game on a day off and I had such high hopes for Freeman. Turns out he was concussed early in the game and the Vikings kept him out there. I drank a bunch of bad craft beer and had 20 buffalo wings to drown my sorrows out. Also, I’m pretty sure Freeman threw 4-5 footballs out of MetLife Stadium that night. Anyways, the Giants spent a grip of money on high priced defensive free agents (DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, and CB Janoris Jenkins) and actually drafted a productive-in-college WR in Sterling Shepard to go across Odell Beckam Jr.
Their OL is a bit of a concern and RB Rashad Jennings turned 31 this offseason. Beckham is going to make Zimmer an extremely angry coach this night and Rhodes or Newman might get chewed out by halftime. I really hope Zimmer is mic’d up for this game. I think Adrian Peterson and McKinnon can 1-2 punch this game for the Vikings and they win a close contest with a much improved New York Giants team. Rudolph becomes a nice target for Teddy Bridgewater and gives the Giants fits all night. Eli throws a late game pick to Captain Munnerlyn that sets up the Vikings in the red zone. Adrian rushes for a 20 yard TD to put the nail in the coffin. Vikings win 28-21
Week 5 vs Texans
Houston spent a ridiculous amount of money on a QB (Brock Osweiler) who played 7 games last year and got benched in Week 17 for a revived corpse version of Peyton Manning. I think Bill O’Brien is an interesting coach (probably the best Bill Belachick student) and has gotten the best out of the talent he has but Houston does absolutely nothing for me. Houston wins this game if JJ Watt plays QB, RB, and all of the defensive positions. DeAndre Hopkins is a top 5 WR in the NFL and will more than likely make Rhodes look silly on a couple of plays, but I get the feeling Brock Osweiler throws multiple picks and is strip sacked for a touchdown by Danielle Hunter. Teddy won’t have to do much and can lean on the running game to win this game after the defense sets the offense up with great field position on multiple drives. Vikings win 30-14
Week 6 BYE
Week 7 @ Eagles
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will be the Eagles’ starting QB in week 1, but I think by this time the Vikings are going to see Sam Bradford. The Eagles are rebuilding, however, they force a good amount of turnovers and Sproles is still dangerous in the return game. I get the feeling Anthony Barr is asked to play coverage against Eagles TE, Zach Ertz, a handful of snaps this game. New Eagles coach, Doug Pedersen, loved to utilize the TE position in Kansas City under Andy Reid’s offense. The WRs that Philadelphia has can be contained, and feel like Munnerlyn can handle his own vs slot WR, Jordan Matthews. Bold prediction: Bradford is benched at the half and we see Carson Wentz take over. Vikings win 27-17
Look for some Barr on Ertz action in this one.
Week 8 @ Bears
Halloween Monday Night Football at Soldier Field. The Vikings finally won at Soldier Field in 2015 for the first time since 2007. However, I think this will be a Halloween nightmare for the Vikings. I’m actually impressed with the personnel the Bears have landed on defense this offseason. This has the makings of a rainy, cold, sloppy mess of a game. Cutler seems to shine from time to time against the Vikings and I think Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White have monster games. Harsh conditions are not helpful for an average armed QB like Teddy Bridgewater and the Bears defense looks like a legit unit. Vic Fangio is one of the better defensive coordinators in the game and he’s starting to get guys (OLB Leonard Floyd, ILB Danny Trevathan, ILB Jerell Freeman, DL Akiem Hicks) he can mold for his system. Fangio was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers from 2011-2014 who had players such as: Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Dante Whitner, Eric Reid, etc. Vikings lose 24-14
Week 9 vs Lions
The Vikings should be thankful they played the Lions in the first half of the season last year. Matthew Stafford was absolutely money the end of the season and the Lions finished with a semi-respectable 7-9 record after starting the year 1-7. I cannot figure out the identity of this team now that Calvin Johnson is gone. The Lions made protecting Stafford a priority during the draft by selecting OT Taylor Decker in the first round. If the Lions can get RB Ameer Abdullah going to take pressure off Stafford, this could be a scary team. Golden Tate is a really nice WR and adding ex-Bengals WR, Marvin Jones, wasn’t a horrible move. The Vikings are the better overall team and will prevail by a Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return for a TD late in the game. Vikings win 27-20
Week 10 @ Washington
I had predicted Jay Gruden getting fired last year, but hey, turns out his team won the division at 9-7 with Kirk “YOU LIKE THAT?” Cousins at QB. WR Josh Doctson was a nice grab for Washington in the first round in the draft. Between Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis (you never know with this guy), Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Josh Doctson, and Matt Jones, the Vikings will have their hands full. They can win it if they force turnovers and get to Cousins. Vikings lose a heart breaker in the final seconds of this game. Vikings lose 21-20
Week 11 vs Cardinals
The Vikings hung with the Cardinals in a 2015 matchup pretty well. Arizona ended up winning the game (23-20) on a brilliant strip sack by Dwight Freeney. Carson Palmer got exposed by Seattle (Week 17), Green Bay (Divisional Round), and Carolina (NFC Championship) last year but I think part of that had to something to do with his finger injury. He had hardly any zip on his throws during those games but Palmer knows this year is his best shot for a Super Bowl and will have another great regular season. Vikings hang with the Cardinals but lose in close fashion again due to David Johnson being a monster. Vikings lose 24-21
David Johnson will be too much for the Vikings to handle in this one.
Week 12 @ Lions
The Vikings haven’t played on Thanksgiving since facing the Cowboys in 2000. Randy Moss was known for lighting up the world during the 1998 and 2000 Thanksgiving games and I think Laquon Treadwell will get his chance in this game. Vikings defense sacks Stafford 5 times and Teddy and Treadwell connect for two touchdowns. Vikings win 31-21
Week 13 vs Cowboys
Thursday Night Football usually is a stinker, but thankfully both the Vikings and Cowboys play on Thanksgiving and will be coming off a normal weeks of rest. Dallas has an elite level offensive line and Ezekiel Elliot will make life for Romo so much easier. Mike Zimmer coached the Cowboys’ defense from 1995-2007 and it’s fair to say he probably knows about some of Tony Romo’s tendencies. This is nail biter game where Tony Romo throws a late pick to Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh successfully converts on a time expiring field goal to clinch the win. Vikings win 27-24
Week 14 @ Jaguars
Remember how the Raiders were going to destroy the Vikings in their 2015 matchup? There’s no way Minnesota’s defense can handle the Raiders ariel attack! The Jaguars hype train comes to a crashing end in a blow out game vs the Vikings. Bortles will throw 2-3 interceptions, giving Teddy Bridgewater excellent field position for 3 touchdown scoring drives. Adrian Peterson daggers the game late with a 60 yard touchdown run to put the Vikings up by three possessions. Vikings win 38-17
Week 15 vs Colts
Andrew Luck has thrown 55 interceptions in 3.5 seasons. He had the worst QB rating in the league last year (when healthy) and struggles versus stingy defenses. Though, I still can’t figure out how he picked apart Seattle in 2013 but looks lost versus defenses like the Jets, Patriots, and Bills. The Colts drafted a good center in Alabama’s Ryan Kelly to protect Luck, but the Colts are going with 33 year old Frank Gore as their starting running back. Adrian Peterson goes wild versus a soft Colts defense and cruise to an easy victory. Vikings win 28-20
We’ll be getting a good look at that classic Andrew Luck interception face.
Week 16 @ Packers
This game is for the division and will be played in horrible winter weather on Christmas Eve. Packers RB, Eddie Lacy, is in a contract year and is currently slimming down with the P90X founder. Rodgers gets quick completions to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson to wear out the corners and grind Eddie Lacy to wear out the Linebackers and Defensive Line. Adrian Peterson has a nice day to keep this close, but ultimately the Packers take the NFC Division Championship. Vikings lose 24-17
Week 17 vs Bears
Thankfully the Lions lost their week 16 game and the Vikings have clinched a wild card spot. Zimmer is furious and makes his starters play versus the Chicago Bears. The Vikings look sharp and refocused and take it to the Bears in all three phases. Chicago will be a 7-8 team at this point and will be playing for pride. Cordarrelle Patterson returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Vikings never look back. Teddy shows poise and throws for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns (Diggs, Treadwell, and McKinnon each with a score). Zimmer’s defense rattles Cutler into forcing 2 turnovers and one for a score. Vikings win 45-18
Vikings will be the #5 NFC seed in the playoffs at 11-5.
BOLD PREDICTION: Mike Zimmer is the AP Coach of The Year.
The Minnesota Vikings went into the 1st round of the NFL draft desperately needing help on the offensive side of the ball and they got it. Arguably the best Wide Receiver in the draft, the Vikings stole Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd overall pick. Vikings General Manager, Rick Spielman, has been known to wheel and deal in the draft, but his patience paid off.
Spielman played it smart by not getting the fastest player, but they got the guy that fits QB Teddy Bridgewater’s strengths the most. Minnesota tried having an outside “burner” with Mike Wallace in 2015, but that was an unmitigated disaster. Treadwell is an outside receiver who ran a 4.64 forty-yard-dash, but you don’t need blazing speed for his skill set.
Some comparable wide recivers: Anquan Boldin (4.71), Larry Fitzgerald (4.63), and Hakeem Nicks (4.63) that matchup with Treadwell. The Vikings also feel that Treadwell can get faster as he heals from his broken left tibia/dislocated ankle. By shoring up offensive line concerns in free agency (Alex Boone and Andre Smith), the Vikings got to focus on their weakest position in the draft.
The personnel for offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, is going to be real cute for a franchise quarterback (Bridgewater) who has been labeled as a “game manager” during his short two year career. Minnesota frequently runs the ball with Adrian Peterson on first down, but by adding Treadwell, they can keep defenses on their heels. Surprisingly, New York Giants passed on all of the WRs in the first round. Eli Apple (CB), the Giants 1st round pick, may pan out wonderfully, but why not pair up Treadwell with Odell Beckham Jr?
Most expect to see Treadwell and Stefon Diggs to be the starting outside WRs for the Minnesota Vikings on opening weekend at Tennessee.