Football is finally here. The Minnesota Vikings kick off another (inevitable year that will end in heartbreak) season on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
It's year two under Kirk Cousins and after last year's lackluster 8-7-1 season, it's safe to say jobs are on the line if Minnesota finds itself outside of the playoff picture for a second consecutive season.
The Falcons are in a similar boat, looking to return to the postseason behind former MVP quarterback Matt Ryan. Here's three things to watch for and what the staff here at Bring Me The News predicts will happen on Sunday when the Vikings take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium.
1. Can the O-line hold up Cousins?
After watching Kirk Cousins crumble – while also coming up with every excuse imaginable – behind a shaky offensive line in 2018, can Minnesota's moving company hold up their starting quarterback?
Gary Kubiak was brought in as an assistant coach to not only help out offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski but to also imply a zone-blocking scheme to make Cosuins and the running game's life easier.
First-round pick Garrett Brarbury will try to anchor the turn around at center, with Pat Elfelin and Josh Kline at left and right guards respectively and Riley Reiff and Brian O'Neill at the tackle positions.
Even with a new philosophy and players in place, no one's expecting the unit to be a top offensive line but if they can be at the very least be an average group among the 32 teams league, it'll be an improvement from last season.
2. Xavier Rhodes vs. Julio Jones
The Vikings top cornerback is entering a big year after a down season in 2018. His first assignment will be going against one of the best receivers in the game in Juilo Jones.
It'll be interesting to see how he'll be used. Will he shadow Jones the whole game? Or will Mike Zimmer get creative in stopping the 6' 3" 220-pound aerial threat.
The last time the two met up in 2017, Jones was held to just 2 catches on 24 yards, which was his worst performance of the season.
Rhodes was an All-Pro that year and Minnesota will need him to return to form if the Vikings defense wants to reclaim the title of best defense in the league.
3. Will Dan Bailey shank one?
After a shaky start to training camp, where the Vikings traded a fifth-round pick to acquire Kaare Vedvik from the Baltimore Ravens, Dan Bailey settled in and beat out the acquisition for the kicking job.
However, Zimmer and fans will probably be holding their breath and shaking in fear when Bailey lines up for a field goal on Sunday and rightfully so.
After all, this is the same franchise who's been cursed with kickers for the past 20 years and despite the better performance in training camp, Bailey made just 75% of his field-goal attempts in 2018.
If Bailey does end up shaking one or is the same inconsistent kicker he was a year ago, it wouldn't be surprising to see Mike Zimmer routinely go for it on fourth downs. If there's anyone who would banish kickers from the league, it's Zimmer.
Sunday is a chance for Bailey to silence his critics – the biggest one being his head coach – by nailing the one job he's tasked with.
BMTN sports writer Declan Goff
Despite being at home, the Falcons are a tough a draw to begin the season and will be looking to make a statement that they're back to being a serious contender in the NFC. Even though Zimmer's defense has the resources to still be one of the better units in the league, I think Matt Ryan's going to have some success and have the last laugh against the savvy head coach. But in typical Vikings fashion, Cousins will get the team into field-goal range on the final drive, only for Bailey to miss the kick and send the Vikings into Lambeau Field 0-1.
Final score: 21-20, Atlanta.
BMTN Sports Editor Joe Nelson
I have zero doubts that Mike Zimmer's defense will dominate Matt Ryan and the Falcons, but I'm not so certain the Vikings' offense will be as effective. I've heard that Stefon Diggs' status for Sunday really is up in the air, and if he doesn't play it'll be up to Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson and Josh Doctson (if he's even active) to take the pressure off Adam Thielen. May the football gods have mercy on us all if the fate of the opener is left to the crooked feet of kicker Dan Bailey. I'm worried, but still expect the Vikings to win a snoozer.
Final score 20-10, Minnesota.
Wide Left blogger Blair Anderson
As the Vikings take the field for their opener, I have no idea what to think of this team. On one hand, the Vikings could be a solid team that contends in a loaded NFC. On the other, this team could go 8-8. Against the Falcons, the key is going to be to get Dalvin Cook going. The Falcons had the 25th ranked rushing defense, which should be a good thing for our Frankenstein offensive line. If Cook can get going, the Vikings should have a lead, which should allow them to pound Matt Ryan into the turf. If we can do that, I think there's a very good chance, the Vikings start 1-0.
Final score: 23-14, Minnesota.
BMTN editor Adam Uren (note: knows nothing about football)
Brett Favre returns to Minnesota after being invited to blow Gjallerhorn, only to be tackled at the knees by a New Orleans Saints linebacker as he ascends the steps. Kirk Cousins throws for 1,200 yards ... on Madden in the locker room before the game, in which he instead throws 12 interceptions. The Vikings turn it around however by virtue of Dan Bailey’s 8 consecutive field goals ... only he removes his helmet and it’s Blair Walsh, who after his last kick rips off his jersey, sets fire to it and exits the field. The game is ultimately abandoned mid-way through the 4th quarter, when thousands of fans angered at being charged $18 for a glass of tap water invade the field to exact revenge.
Final score: game abandoned.