Grantland: Key to Vikings improving is starting Bridgewater midseason

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In case you missed it earlier this week, most NFL experts have once again picked the Vikings to miss the playoffs. Cordarrelle Patterson plans on proving the "haters" wrong, which means he won't have to take any frustration out on Grantland.com.

Grantland's Bill Barnwell broke down the numbers, roster, schedule and a whole lot more and came to the conclusion that the Vikings will be one of eight teams on the rise in 2014.

"Sure, they may not necessarily be Super Bowl favorites, and some of them might only make marginal improvements that get canceled out by bad luck, but these are teams with reasons to be hopeful!", Barnwell wrote.

The key to Minnesota turning the tables this season will be inserting rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into the starting lineup. Matt Cassel doesn't plan on letting that happen, but Barnwell thinks it's inevitable.

"I find it very hard to believe Cassel will be starting for this team by the end of that five-game stretch. That will give Bridgewater a chance to start against the Lions, Bills, Buccaneers, and Washington before the bye. I know he has a very good offensive coordinator in terms of developing young quarterbacks in Norv Turner; a solid offensive line; three talented receivers in Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, and Kyle Rudolph; and if all else fails, Adrian Peterson. That seems like a pretty good offense to me."

Cassel isn't getting any respect right now. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal ranked Cassel 25th among 32 starting quarterbacks. Only Josh McCown, Shaun Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Henne, E.J. Manuel, Brian Hoyer and Derek Carr were lower. Yikes.

Barnwell adds that Mike Zimmer's track record of improving defenses should allow the Vikings to show off an above average unit early in the season. Everson Griffen is referred to as a "monster" while players like Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn will help a great deal.

Barnwell isn't completely along in thinking the Vikings will be better. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio ranked the Vikings 23rd in his power rankings, but said there's "a sneaky chance they’ll finish much higher than this."

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