The order of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 regular-season schedule has not been finalized simply but, however we no less than know which groups the purple and gold will go up towards subsequent season.
Past their six divisional video games, the Vikings will play the NFC West, the AFC North and the third-place finishers from the NFC East and NFC South. (Notice: There are studies that there shall be a 17-game schedule in 2021. If this involves fruition, primarily based on the NFL’s earlier figuring out of tips on how to add the additional contest, Minnesota’s opponent would be the Los Angeles Chargers and all AFC groups will host these additional video games.)
Their opponents are official however a few of these groups will undergo huge roster turnover, together with at quarterback, thus lots of Minnesota’s 2021 foes will look a lot completely different than they did final season.
With the beginning of the league 12 months approaching – and thus free company – we thought we’d check out who the Vikings will play in 2021 (listed so as of 2020 file):
Inexperienced Bay Packers (dwelling & away)
2020 file: 13-3
Notable: For all of the Vikings followers who take pleasure within the ache of Cheeseheads, then you need to discover some solace with how the Packers’ season ended, with unfulfilled promise with Inexperienced Bay trustworthy in despair at developing one recreation wanting the Tremendous Bowl once more. Inexperienced Bay completed because the No. 1 seed within the NFC and featured MVP Aaron Rodgers who threw for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and simply 5 interceptions. Rodgers hardly labored alone, since Davante Adams, Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Aaron Jones (a pending free agent) and Za’Darius Smith all made the Professional Bowl.
Large query: How joyful is Rodgers? His feedback after the NFC championship recreation didn’t point out that he’ll play for the Packers ceaselessly, and with the group’s latest first-round collection of Jordan Love, it seems like his time with the group will finish comparatively quickly. The query is how a lot it impacts the 2021 squad.
Expectations: Inexperienced Bay ought to nonetheless be a prime contender within the NFC as soon as once more. Certain, Rodgers is one 12 months older however Inexperienced Bay has a reasonably proficient roster that ought to no less than put them in place to be the NFC North favourite.
Pittsburgh Steelers (dwelling)
2020 file: 12-4
Notable: Pittsburgh skilled one of many oddest 12-4 seasons in NFL historical past, beginning off 11-0 then dropping 4 of its final 5 regular-season video games earlier than a 48-37 defeat to the Cleveland Browns within the wild-card spherical of the playoffs. The Steelers’ offense ranked final in dashing with 84.4 yards per recreation and whereas Ben Roethlisberger was statistically nice, the attention check indicated some deterioration by the tip of the season. Roethlisberger mentioned within the offseason that he would take much less cash to return in 2021 – he presently is scheduled for an over $41 million salary-cap hit — and that would go a great distance for a group that would lose key defenders Tyson Alualu, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton and Avery Williamson, to not point out operating again James Conner and vast receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, to free company.
Large query: Has the clock struck 12 on Large Ben? Sure, we’re within the period of quarterbacks taking part in at a sophisticated age, however Roethlisberger, who simply turned 39, has been lots beat up over his profession. After lacking many of the 2019 season, Roethlisberger threw for 3,803 yards in 2020 – his fewest in a season during which he performed in 14+ video games since 2008 – with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Amazingly, not cell he was sacked simply 13 instances due to a robust offensive line (which can now be with out heart Maurkice Pouncey, who retired) and fast, shorter throws (6.3 yards per try the worst of his profession in any season during which he performed greater than two video games).
Expectations: All of it will depend on if Roethlisberger returns to type and the way a lot of the protection stays intact. How a lot will Pittsburgh lose from its top-three protection? Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt stay, nevertheless it gained’t be capable of maintain all of these defensive free brokers. There’s additionally the above-mentioned Conner and Smith-Schuster. Large Ben signed a brand new contract to assist Pittsburgh’s cap scenario, nevertheless it nonetheless isn’t flush with money. It’s onerous to think about the Steelers regressing a ton in 2021, however they probably gained’t be meaningfully higher.
Seattle Seahawks (dwelling)
2020 file: 12-4
Notable: The Seahawks acquired off to an excellent begin, averaging 34.25 factors of their first eight video games. Seattle’s offense cratered the remainder of the season, culminating in a 30-20 defeat to the Rams within the wild-card spherical of the playoffs. Whether or not it was Russell Wilson regressing or the teaching employees not having sufficient solutions as defenses acquired extra movie, the Seahawks want to determine to maintain a high-powered offensive assault in the event that they wish to get again to a Tremendous Bowl.
Large query: How does new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron impression the offense? Seattle employed the Rams’ passing-game coordinator in January and with Wilson coming into 12 months 10 within the NFL, there are expectations for the offense attain one other degree in 2021. Presuming Wilson is staying in Seattle, after all.
Expectations: The Seahawks fancy themselves as contenders for the NFC crown, however since 2014 they’ve by no means gone previous the divisional spherical of the playoffs. With a number of impactful gamers above the age of 30 and solely so many extra prime years of Wilson, Seattle needs to be aiming excessive once more when Minnesota faces it.
Baltimore Ravens (street)
2020 file: 11-5
Notable: The Ravens and Lamar Jackson acquired over the hump, so to talk, by defeating the Tennessee Titans within the wild-card spherical. The absurd “Lamar Jackson can’t win within the playoffs” narrative is as useless because the Dodo however the critiques will stick round till Baltimore severely challenges for a championship. It put collectively one other good season in 2020 and even led the NFL with a +165 level differential, however no Ravens fan desires to listen to about that if they’ve championship hopes. Baltimore had the seventh-best protection within the NFL final 12 months and Jackson rushed for over 1,000 yards as soon as once more, however since Marquise Brown was the one vast receiver to have no less than 700 yards, the Ravens might attempt to fill that roster gap with a revamped group of wideouts.
Large query: Can the Ravens turn into professional championship contenders? Prior to now two seasons with Jackson entrenched because the starter, Baltimore went 14-2 after which 11-5 with a playoff win over the Titans. On one hand, it’s incredible to win 25 regular-season video games in two years. On the opposite, the Ravens have just about completed every little thing BUT attain a Tremendous Bowl, so even when Baltimore goes 13-3 in 2021, all eyes shall be on it in January.
Expectations: The Ravens figures to be an AFC contender once more and needs to be a tricky check for Minnesota. Jackson has continued to develop as a quarterback and stays one of many scariest offensive gamers within the league.
Cleveland Browns (dwelling)
2020 file: 11-5
Notable: The Browns are coming off a playoff look and victory, one thing that has not occurred since 1995. Former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski gained the NFL Coach of the 12 months award for his efforts turning Cleveland right into a contender. The Browns’ offensive line was actually the catalyst for the group’s success, as Professional Soccer Focus ranked the unit No. 1 in run blocking and go blocking. With Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin at sort out, Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio manning the guard spots, and JC Tretter at heart, the large uglies paved the way in which for Nick Chubb to hurry for 1,067 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5.6 yards per carry within the 12 video games he performed. Quarterback Baker Mayfield additionally benefitted from the good offensive line with 3,563 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Large query: Can the offense keep at this degree once more? It’s unfair to anticipate Cleveland to be the highest run blocking and go blocking group once more, however it’s inside the realm of risk since not one of the starters are upcoming free brokers. Regardless, it looks like the Browns ought to have probably the greatest offensive traces within the NFL in 2021 and in the event that they keep largely wholesome then the group ought to make a return journey to the postseason.
Expectations: Cleveland seems to be on observe to be a playoff group as soon as once more. Mayfield remains to be beneath his rookie contract and enters 2021 with (barring trades) Chubb and Kareem Hunt within the backfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on the skin, Austin Hooper and David Njoku at tight finish and a very good offensive line. There are Professional Bowl-level gamers throughout that offense and that ought to make the Browns a critical risk to the AFC crown this season.
Los Angeles Rams (dwelling)
2020 file: 10-6
Notable: After beating the Seattle Seahawks 30-20 within the wild-card spherical then falling to the Inexperienced Bay Packers 32-18 the following week, the offseason has been pretty quiet for the Rams. Nicely, apart from buying and selling Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round choose to Detroit for Matthew Stafford, dropping defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Los Angeles Chargers as their head coach and passing recreation coordinator Shane Waldron to the Seahawks as their new offensive coordinator. Aside from that, it has been enterprise as typical in Los Angeles.
Large query: How a lot better is Stafford than Goff? Most NFL observers would agree that Stafford is a greater quarterback than Goff, however is he two first-round picks and a 3rd rounder higher? That’s the large query as a result of if he’s solely marginally higher or presumably worse, then the Rams will rue the day they dealt Goff to Detroit.
Expectations: Los Angeles’ offense needs to be higher with Stafford within the fold, particularly since efficient left sort out Andrew Whitworth shall be again. The protection alternatively is a query. Staley is gone, Leonard Floyd, Morgan Fox, John Johnson and Darious Williams all might depart in free company, which might severely hamper the Rams top-ranked protection.
Arizona Cardinals (street)
2020 file: 8-8
Notable: Arizona had two seasons packed in a single in 2020. The Cardinals began off 6-3 and lit the world on fireplace with their explosive offense led by Kyler Murray, however the group fizzled down the stretch en path to a .500 end. Murray confirmed why he was the No. 1 choose in his second season, passing for 3,971 yards, 26 landing and 12 interceptions and dashing for 819 yards and 11 scores. However the offense struggled down the stretch, scoring fewer than 24 factors in 4 of the group’s final seven video games.
Large query: Can the offense maintain a excessive degree of play all through the season? Arizona has weapons. DeAndre Hopkins isn’t going wherever. Kenyan Drake rushed for 955 yards and 10 TDs in 2020. The items are there for Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury to place up factors on a constant foundation.
Expectations: Arizona had its eyes set on the postseason in 2020 however fell brief within the final two weeks of the season to go 8-8. That is the 12 months for the Cardinals to make the playoffs, though six video games of stingy competitors within the NFC West might make issues powerful. Arizona has to really feel it’s near breaking by after signing J.J. Watt.
Chicago Bears (dwelling & away)
2020 file: 8-8
Notable: To the chagrin some Bears followers, head coach Matt Nagy and basic supervisor Ryan Tempo shall be again for 2021. In equity to these two, Chicago had constructed a good roster however might by no means nail the quarterback spot after drafting Mitchell Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017. Da Bears, I suppose. The long run is murky with Tashaun Gipson, Roy Robertson-Harris, Allen Robinson and Trubisky among the many Bears’ 2021 free brokers
Large query: Does Trubisky come again to the Bears? If he returns to the Windy Metropolis then he’ll proceed being their starter. If not? Nick Foles confirmed why he’s a profession backup when he suited up for the Bears in 2020, so that they should seek for their subsequent starter within the commerce market, free company or within the draft.
Expectations: With uncertainty round Trubisky in Chicago, the Bears’ expectations shall be crystalized if and once they make the choice on No. 10 or usher in another person. If that particular person is Trubisky, a rookie or a alternative degree QB (Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Darnold, and so forth.) then Chicago will in all probability hover round 8-8 once more.
Dallas Cowboys (dwelling)
2020 file: 6-10
Notable: The Cowboys didn’t fare effectively in a season that featured simply 5 video games from beginning quarterback Dak Prescott. As soon as Prescott was injured and misplaced for the 12 months in Week 5 towards the New York Giants, Dallas turned to a plethora of backup quarterbacks led by Andy Dalton and ultimately missed the playoffs. The Cowboys have been nonetheless in a position to air it out a bit since vast receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb all had no less than 840 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. Dallas’ protection alternatively was tenth worst within the NFL and surrendered 29.6 factors per recreation.
Large query: Will Prescott get the franchise tag once more? The Cowboys tagged him final offseason, so in the event that they do it once more as an alternative of signing him to a long-term deal then it should in all probability poison the effectively and trigger Prescott to go away after 2021.
Expectations: Assuming Prescott is again and wholesome for 2021, the Cowboys will in all probability be the most effective of a nasty NFC East division. Prescott is an upper-tier quarterback and has some glorious receivers together with operating again Ezekiel Elliott, so the offense ought to be capable of cleared the path as soon as once more.
San Francisco 49ers (street)
2020 file: 6-10
Notable: San Francisco dipped again under .500 in 2020 after taking part in within the Tremendous Bowl the 12 months earlier than. Accidents have been the principle motive the 49ers’ season plummeted, as Nick Bosa, Garoppolo, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, , Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas (to call a number of) all missed vital time. Sadly for the 49ers, they’ve a handful of essential upcoming free brokers, together with Kyle Juszczyk, Jerick McKinnon, Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, Thomas and Trent Williams, amongst others. There isn’t any approach the group will be capable of retain all these key gamers, so does that imply Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers wish to improve at QB to offset their losses?
Large query: Is Garoppolo nonetheless on the roster coming into 2021? San Francisco has floated commerce choices to the media in the course of the offseason which suggests Jimmy G’s future within the Bay Space is in query. Garoppolo is due $26.4 million subsequent season however solely has a useless cap variety of $2.8 million, so his deal wouldn’t be an enormous albatross in a possible commerce.
Expectations: Lots of that is depending on quarterback for San Francisco, however the 49ers needs to be NFC West contenders in 2021. There isn’t any approach they are going to be hit fairly as unhealthy with accidents and until destiny loves merciless jokes, plus San Francisco additionally gained’t have to complete out its remaining two regular-season video games in Glendale, Ariz., prefer it did in 2020. The 49ers’ roster remains to be on the higher finish of the NFL and it ought to present within the fall.
Carolina Panthers (street)
2020 file: 5-11
Notable: The Panthers are nonetheless squarely in transition mode coming into 12 months two of the Matt Rhule period. Former Vikings signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater accomplished 69.1% of his passes for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 picks in his first 12 months in new offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s scheme. Whereas accidents restricted elite operating again Christian McCaffrey to simply three video games, lots of Carolina’s offensive weapons benefitted in Brady’s offense, particularly vast receivers Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, who every surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, and wideout Curtis Samuel, who had 851 receiving yards to go along with 200 on the bottom. The Panthers’ protection was slightly below common by way of yards allowed and featured NFL defensive rookie of the 12 months candidate in security Jeremy Chinn, who Vikings followers know all too effectively after final season’s Week 12 bout.
Large query: Just like Detroit, who begins at QB for Carolina? Bridgewater was nice for final 12 months however it’s clear the Panthers’ brass shouldn’t be totally dedicated to him as a result of they tried to commerce for Stafford. Carolina has the No. 8 choose within the draft so it might choose a rookie quarterback with that or package deal it in a commerce for an additional established veteran.
Expectations: Lots of this will depend on who begins at quarterback for the Panthers, nevertheless it seems the items are in place for them to make a leap in 2021. McCaffrey is again, vast receiver is much from a necessity and their protection shouldn’t be a catastrophe.
Detroit Lions (dwelling & away)
2020 file: 5-11
Notable: The Lions will look a lot completely different in 2021 than they seemed in years previous. Detroit fired basic supervisor Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia and changed them with Brad Holmes and authorized Soccer Man Dan Campbell. Shortly after these two have been in place, Detroit traded beginning quarterback Matt Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff, two future first-round picks and a third-round choose. After three straight dropping seasons with that trio in Detroit, it made sense for these strikes to be made. The Lions’ protection was objectively the worst within the NFL, rating thirty second in factors allowed, yards allowed and defensive DVOA, which clearly restricted what the Lions have been able to in 2020. Stafford had a good season, throwing for 4,084 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 16 begins, however not having a lot of a operating recreation and dropping star wideout Kenny Golladay to harm made issues suboptimal for his or her offense.
Large query: Simply what’s going to this group appear to be and is Campbell the precise coach to steer a turnaround? We do not know what a Campbell group will appear to be on the sector – apart from biting at kneecaps. How will Goff slot in to a brand new offense? The operating again place is one thing of a large number. Golladay is a free agent. And we talked about the protection. Detroit misplaced seven video games by 14+ factors in 2020.
Expectations: This can be a rebuild. The Lions will in all probability be unhealthy in 2021, which is absolutely nothing new however by buying a lot draft capital and a youthful quarterback, it looks like the Lions are cool with taking some short-term defeats as a part of the method to develop a extra full roster. Minnesota ought to be capable of choose up two wins over the Lions, however with Campbell on the helm, the Vikings higher be careful for his or her kneecaps.
Cincinnati Bengals (street)
2020 file: 4-11-1
Notable: Cincinnati seemed like a frisky underdog within the 10 video games that Joe Burrow performed, with the rookie throwing for two,688 yards, 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Burrow confirmed why he was the highest choice within the 2020 draft, however the Bengals additionally confirmed why they have been in place to draft No. 1 total. Their protection allowed the seventh-most yardage in 2020 and their offensive line gave up 3.0 sacks per recreation, sixth-worst within the NFL.
Large query: How will Burrow’s harm have an effect on his play in 2021? Burrow tore his ACL on Nov. 22. A return to taking part in in September isn’t out of the query. However will it take time for Burrow to regain his mobility – and his confidence within the knee to run? A Bengals offense with a wholesome Burrow, an improved offensive line, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon may very well be actually fascinating.
Expectations: Cincy shouldn’t be a backside feeder as soon as once more, however playoffs is perhaps a stretch. Anticipate a .500-ish end result for the Bengals.