Based on feedback we've received, it's apparent that fans aren't as optimistic as I am that the Vikings can reach double-digit wins in 2019.
I scanned the schedule as it was released Wednesday night and came up with a prediction of 11-5 or 12-4, with the Vikings winning five of six games against division opponents. The way I see it, the Packers aren't as good as advertised, Detroit is still Detroit and the Vikings will be good enough to split with the reigning NFC North champion Bears.
Some accused me of wearing purple-colored glasses and drinking purple Kool-Aid. here's a flavor of the responses we've received to my long range football forecast.
– "Have another beer."
– "Wow that's bold. They will lose one to Green bay for sure. 9-7 for sure."
– "Without an offensive line 9-7."
– "8-8 at the best with Kirk Cousins. With Keenum they'd go 12-4. Zimmer and Spielman need to take the blame for that one..."
– "The Purple Positivity runs deep, PA live inside you?"
According to Sporting News, the Vikings have the 10th-hardest schedule in the NFL. I don't really see it that way and I'm not convinced that looking at last year's winning percentages equate to Minnesota having one of the 10 hardest schedules. Teams go up and down all the time, and I expect the Vikings to play more like the 2017 team than last year's squad.
Week 1 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta can be a high-powered offense, but they've done next to nothing to bolster any units on a team that at one point last season was 4-9 and lost five games by double-digit points. Plus, it's the home opener at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota isn't losing to Atlanta.
Week 2 - at Green Bay Packers
The Vikings and Packers skated to a tie in last year's game at Lambeau Field. Is Green Bay better? Probably, thanks to the additions of edge rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, but are two rush specialists and former Bears safety Adrian Amos enough to slow down a Minnesota offense that saw Kirk Cousins light them up for a combined 767 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception?
I'm not sold on Green Bay bouncing back so fast, and playing at Lambeau in September is an advantage.
Week 3 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Do we even need to break this one down?
Week 4 - at Chicago Bears
Minnesota never plays well in Chicago and the Bears might have the best defense in the NFL again. This feels like the first surefire loss of the season for the Vikes.
Week 5 - at New York Giants
Unless Saquon Barkley rushes for about 300 yards the Vikings will undoubtedly march through the Odell Beckham-less Giants with ease. New York is bound to be one of the worst teams in the NFC, and Eli Manning's career record against the Vikings is 3-6 with five touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Week 6 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Armed with beer cans, Eagles fans pose a threat to Vikings fans, but the game on the field should favor Minnesota at home. That said, Philly looks dangerous on paper thanks to free-agent additions of wide receiver Desean Jackson and running back Jordan Howard. They also get Carson Wentz back from last season's injuries, although that feels less frightening than Minnesota having to face Nick Foles.
This could go either way, but I'm taking the home team.
Week 7 - at Detroit Lions
Vegas has put Detroit's over/under win total at seven, and no one in their right mind is going to bet the over. Minnesota has a history of struggling at Ford Field, but not last year when they won going away, 27-9.
Week 8 - vs. Washington Redskins (Thursday Night Football)
Welcome back to Minnesota, Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson. Maybe they'll have some magic left in them against their former team, but being forced to travel on short rest against a potentially dominant defense doesn't look good for the Redskins.
Week 9 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Good luck to any team going into Arrowhead Stadium against Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and the Chiefs. Mike Zimmer will need to be on his A game just to slow this juggernaut down, and Minnesota's defense failed miserably in similar situations last year against the Rams and Patriots.
Week 10 - at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)
Back-to-back road games against tough teams is probably the most difficult stretch of the season, and the Cowboys are poised to be dangerous for a second year in a row, especially in the first full season with wide receiver Amari Cooper, who will be joined by ex-Packers receiver Randall Cobb.
Tight end Jason Witten is also back from retirement, and Dallas' offensive line might actually be healthy this season. This is a winnable game, but I'll give the edge to Dallas since they'll be two weeks removed from a bye while Minnesota will be playing for a tenth straight week.
Week 11 - vs. Denver Broncos
Anyone who thinks Joe Flacco, Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are going to do anything against the Vikings' defense is crazy.
Week 13 - at Seattle Seahawks (Monday Night Football)
As long as Russell Wilson is healthy, the Vikings aren't going to win in Seattle. That just seems to be a fact of life.
Week 14 - vs. Detroit Lions
By about this time, Matthew Stafford will probably be playing through double-digit injuries, but being tough as nails won't lead the Lions to a win in Minneapolis.
Week 15 - at Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are expected to an excellent all-around team again, making a trip to L.A. a very difficult place to leave with a victory.
Week 16 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Again, these aren't the Packers of old and Aaron Rodgers hasn't had much success in Minnesota against Mike Zimmer's defense.
Week 17 - vs. Chicago Bears
If the Bears are as good as they were a year ago, this is going to be a low-scoring, black-and-blue battle. Could the Vikings lose? Easily. Can they win? It's at home, so of course they can. I'm taking the Vikings to split with the Bears this season.
My predictions are nothing more than an educated guess. Teams have yet to make improvements through the NFL Draft and things could change dramatically if key players suffer injuries during OTAs, minicamp, training camp or the preseason.
We're still 144 days from the season opener, and plenty could change between now and then.