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National sports writers don't think much of the Vikings' chances

What a difference a year makes.
Pat Elflein, offensive line

A year ago and the Vikings were hot property, having reached the NFC Championship before signing the hottest quarterback free agent in Kirk Cousins.

Fast-forward 12 months and there is less optimism about Minnesota, judging by the "power rankings" compiled by national commentators over the past month.

A tip of the hat to The Viking Age for pulling together a compilation of the various rankings released so far this spring, with the Vikings' highest ranking coming at No. 5, courtesy of USA Today's Nate Davis.

"If any team is positioned for a major rebound, it's this one," he writes. "With offensive line and run game improved, QB Kirk Cousins and No. 1 defense from 2017 should be far more effective."

Less optimistic about the Vikings' chances is Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer, who has the Vikes ranked 17th out of 32.

The reason? Because while the Vikings offense is looking up, Mike Zimmer's much-vaunted defense needs "more youth to serve them," noting "they've gotten a little longer in the tooth."

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Over at Bleacher Report, NFL analyst Gary Davenport expects the Vikings to do better than last year, but that doesn't mean a playoff place will happen.

The reason? Kirk Cousins.

"The problem in Minnesota isn't hard to pinpoint. It's the guy making $56 million guaranteed over the next two years. Kirk Cousins isn't a bad quarterback necessarily. But he's not an especially good one, either—he's a stat padder who has consistently faltered in big games and against higher-end opposition over his career. His contract was an $84 million boondoggle, but there's little the Vikings can do about it at present."

But NFL.com is more optimistic provided Garrett Bradbury can give Cousins some more protection.

"Bradbury comes highly recommended for the middle of that line, while Smith's handiwork up front should assist what has been an on-again, off-again, off-again running game. Still think Minnesota can be a playoff team, but Bradbury must step in and play like a vet opening week."

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Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.