The Vikings just began their offseason workouts and the regular season is still four-plus months away. But with the NFL releasing its 2019 schedule on Wednesday this seems like the perfect time to take an initial shot at predicting how Mike Zimmer’s club will fare this season.
Coming off a disappointing 8-7-1 finish in 2018, the Vikings will open the upcoming season against Atlanta at home and close against Chicago (again) in the same place. This could be a make-or-break season for general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer as their $84 million quarterback, Kirk Cousins, begins the second season of a three-year contract that began with expectations of a Super Bowl.
So how will the Vikings do in Zimmer’s sixth season in charge? Here’s how one man sees it:
Week 1 (Sept. 8): vs. Atlanta, noon, Fox
The skinny: The Vikings will open the season at home for the third consecutive year as the Falcons make their first trip to Minnesota since 2014. This will mark the Vikings’ fifth season-opener against Atlanta, the second-most behind San Francisco (seven). The Vikings are 3-0 against the Falcons under Zimmer and are searching for their 20th win all-time against Atlanta.
The prediction: The Falcons went 7-9 last season and their luck won’t change in Week 1. Zimmer improves to 4-0 against the Falcons. Vikings win, 1-0
Week 2 (Sept. 15): at Green Bay, noon, Fox
The skinny: This will mark the first time in franchise history the Vikings will travel to Green Bay for a Week 2 matchup in back-to-back seasons. Last season, the Vikings and Packers played to a 29-29 tie in Week 2, only the third tie in series history. The Vikings are 1-1-1 in their past three games at Lambeau Field and 5-1-1 overall in the past seven meetings.
The prediction: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers haven’t made the playoffs in two seasons and the Green Bay quarterback has taken plenty of criticism for what has gone wrong. Mike McCarthy is no longer the Packers coach and 39-year-old coach Matt LaFleur is now in charge. Green Bay also has made some offseason additions on defense. All of this might be bad news for the Vikings and the rest of the NFC North, especially if Rodgers returns to his former ways. Vikings lose, 1-1
Week 3 (Sept. 22): vs. Oakland, noon, Fox
The skinny: The Raiders will make their first appearance in Minneapolis since they beat the Vikings, 27-21, on Nov. 20, 2011 in the Metrodome. Christian Ponder was the Vikings’ starting quarterback that day for a team that finished 3-13.
The prediction: The Raiders are coming off a 4-12 finish in Jon Gruden’s first year back in Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas ) as head coach. The Raiders have made some significant moves this offseason, including acquiring star wide receiver Antonio Brown in a trade, and should be improved. That won’t be enough to get a win in this game. Vikings win, 2-1
Week 4 (Sept. 29): at Chicago, 3:25, CBS
The skinny: The Bears won the NFC North last season with a 12-4 record and swept the Vikings in their two meetings. This included beating Minnesota in the regular-season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium to end the Vikings’ hopes of getting back to the playoffs. The Week 4 matchup marks the earliest meeting between these teams since their Week 2 game in 2013.
The prediction: I expect the Bears will take a step back in 2019, but the Vikings always seem to have trouble in Soldier Field. Minnesota’s defense could give Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky problems, but the Bears’ defense likely will do the same against Cousins. Vikings lose, 2-2
Week 5 (Oct. 6): at New York Giants, noon, Fox
The skinny: This game will mark the first time Zimmer faces Pat Shurmur since Shurmur departed as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator following the 2018 season to become the Giants’ coach. The Vikings also played in MetLife Stadium last season, beating the Jets in Week 7. The Vikings are looking for their ninth road win against the Giants and first since 2007.
The prediction: The Giants went 5-11 in Shurmur’s first season as coach and that might not change this year. It will help the Vikings even more if New York continues to start Eli Manning at quarterback and that likely will be the case. Vikings win, 3-2
Week 6 (Oct. 13): vs. Philadelphia, noon, Fox
The skinny: This will be the fourth consecutive season in which the Vikings face the Eagles, including playoffs. The all-time series is tied at 14-14.
The prediction: The Eagles destroyed the Vikings, 38-7, in the 2017 NFC title game in Philadelphia as Nick Foles led the rout. Minnesota came back to beat the Eagles, 23-21, last season in Week 5 with Carson Wentz starting at quarterback. Wentz will be starting again in this one — assuming he’s healthy — because Foles is now in Jacksonville. The result will be similar to what happened in Philly. Vikings win, 4-2
Week 7 (Oct. 20): at Detroit, noon, Fox
The skinny: The Vikings recorded their first season sweep of the Lions since 2015 last year, making it the second time that had happened under Zimmer. The Vikings have won three of five games at Ford Field since Zimmer became coach. Minnesota had a rough first half in their Week 16 victory in Detroit, but Kyle Rudolph’s 44-yard catch of a Hail Mary pass to end the first half helped lead the Vikings to a 27-9 victory.
The prediction: Matt Patricia might be a good defensive coordinator, but he isn’t the answer as a head coach and that’s good news for the Vikings. Vikings win, 5-2
Week 8 (Oct 24, Thursday): vs. Washington, 7:20 p.m., Fox/NFLN
The skinny: The Vikings and Washington did not play last season for the first time since 2015 but they will renew their rivalry in Minnesota’s first prime-time game of the season. The last time these teams played the visiting Vikings beat Washington, 38-30, in 2017. Cousins was Washington’s starting quarterback in that game and Case Keenum started for the Vikings. Cousins is now the Vikings’ starting QB and Keenum is expected to start for Washington after being traded by Denver this offseason. Don’t forget former Vikings Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson is now in Washington. The Vikings will play host to a Thursday night game for the first time since Dec. 1, 2016 when they lost to Dallas.
The prediction: Here’s where it gets difficult. Washington might not be very good, it went 7-9 last season, but Cousins is likely to feel tremendous pressure to prove himself against the organization that used the franchise tag on him (twice!) because it did not believe he deserved a long-term contract. Cousins also is 5-13 in prime-time games. The Vikings should win this game but it’s difficult, no impossible, to pick them until Cousins shows he can win a game exactly like this. Vikings lose, 5-3
Week 9 (Nov. 3): at Kansas City, noon, Fox
The skinny: The Vikings beat the Chiefs, 16-10, in 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. The Vikings will be looking to win their first road game against the Chiefs since the team’s first-ever trip to Kansas City in 1974. The Vikings are 0-4 in Kansas City since that time.
The prediction: Zimmer’s defense against an Andy Reid offense that is led by 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. This should be a great matchup and it’s a bit surprising it didn’t make it to prime time. Can the Vikings slow Mahomes? Can Cousins do enough to win on the road? I have to go with the home team. Vikings lose, 5-4
Week 10 (Nov. 10): at Dallas, 7:20 p.m., NBC
The skinny: Zimmer spent 13 years in Dallas as defensive backs coach (1994-99) and defensive coordinator (2000-06). This will be his first time back since taking the Vikings’ job. The Vikings will be looking for their15th win against the Cowboys.
The prediction: The Cowboys won the NFC East last season with a 10-6 record. If the Vikings do lose to Washington at home, there will be plenty written about Cousins’ struggles in prime-time games and playing in Dallas isn’t easy. So the Vikings will lose this game, right? Nope, Zimmer’s defense will give Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott enough trouble that the Vikings will get the upset. Vikings win, 6-4
Week 11 (Nov. 17): vs. Denver, noon, CBS
The skinny: The Vikings lost to the Broncos by three points in their most recent regular-season meeting in Week 4 of the 2015 season in Denver. Gary Kubiak, entering his first season as Vikings’ assistant head coach and offensive advisor, coached the Broncos to a Super Bowl title in the 2015 season. Kubiak also was a backup quarterback for the Broncos in three Super Bowls.
The prediction: The Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning days seem like a long time ago and the team is hoping newly hired coach Vic Fangio and newly acquired quarterback Joe Flacco can turn things around in Denver after a 6-10 finish in 2018. Don’t count on it. Vikings win, 7-4
Week 12 (Nov. 24): Bye week
Week 13 (Dec. 2, Monday): at Seattle, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
The skinny: This is the second consecutive season in which the Vikings will play at Seattle on a Monday night. The Seahawks beat the Vikings, 21-7, in Week 14 of last season. Since 2012, Seattle has won five consecutive games in this series to take a six-game lead.
The prediction: Did we mention that Cousins is 0-7 in his career on Monday Night Football? Seattle is a tough place to play and it seems like a long shot that Cousins will get his first Monday night victory in this one. Vikings lose, 7-5
Week 14 (Dec. 8): vs. Detroit, noon, Fox
The skinny: The Vikings will close the 2019 season with three of their last four games coming against NFC North opponents for the first time since 1996. The Vikings beat the Lions, 24-9, last season at home to get their first victory over Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford 10 times in that game.
The prediction: The Vikings make it two in a row against the Lions in downtown Minneapolis. Vikings win, 8-5
Week 15 (Dec. 15): at Los Angeles Chargers, 7:20 p.m., NBC
The skinny: The Chargers and Vikings have traded wins and losses in each meeting since their first matchup in 1971. That might not be good news for the Vikings, considering they beat the Chargers, 31-14, in September 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings also played in Los Angeles in 2018, losing to the Rams at the L.A. Coliseum. This game will be played at the Chargers’ temporary home, Dignity Health Sports Park, in Carson, Calif.
The prediction: The Chargers went 12-4 last season under Anthony Lynn and finished ninth in total defense. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who will turn 38 in December, continues to lead this team. So is this the season that Rivers’ play begins to slip? The Vikings certainly will be hoping that’s the case but it’s a dangerous assumption to make. Vikings lose, 8-6
Week 16 (Dec. 23, Monday): vs. Green Bay, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
The skinny: The Packers will play a Monday night game in Minnesota for the first time since Brett Favre and the Vikings beat Green Bay, 30-23, on Oct. 5, 2009. The Vikings will be looking to win their fourth in a row at home against the Packers and are 3-0 vs. Green Bay since U.S. Bank Stadium opened.
The prediction: The guess here is that Rodgers is going to have an MVP-type season and, if that’s the case, it’s going to be tough to beat him in prime time. Especially with Cousins’ past performance under the lights. Vikings lose, 8-7
Week 17 (Dec. 29): vs. Chicago, noon, Fox
The skinny: The Vikings will close their season at home against the Bears for the fourth consecutive year. Not sure why the NFL doesn’t mix it up a bit by sending another division foe to U.S. Bank Stadium but it would be nice.
The prediction: The Vikings lost to the Bears, and lost a chance to make the playoffs, in their regular-season finale in 2018. This time they get a victory, but the end result to the season is still a disappointment as Minnesota again misses the playoffs. Vikings win, 9-7