Earlier in the offseason, he predicted the Vikings would miss the playoffs, yet contrarily, he couldn’t deny the Vikings have the makeup of a championship-caliber team.
Here’s Rank’s take:
The Super Bowl window for the Vikings is still open. For now. Minnesota remains one of the most talented teams in the NFC, but a trip to the title game has eluded the franchise for quite some time now. Forty-three seasons, to be exact. Are the Vikings closer to the ultimate goal now than, say, when they reached the 2017 NFC Championship Game? That is something we are going to need to take a look at. The Vikings are talented. There is no denying that. But are they better than they were?
While Rank was high on several moments of the 2019 season, he did point out the Vikings had a losing record in the division last season and got a good look at where the team is in a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional round. He added that the Vikings are obviously in the top half of NFL teams, but not quite top tier in 2020.
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Three Key Dates on the 2020 Schedule
The truncated offseason due to COVID-19 has put the Vikings in a troubling spot after losing seven starters and needing to get their young players up to speed. Rank selected three games that will be key barometers for the arc of the Vikings’ season, starting with their Week 1 game against the Green Bay Packers.
The Vikings will host the Packers in a season-opener for the first time in franchise history. Nothing matures players more than a rivalry game, and Rank believes the Vikings odds are good as the Packers are “ripe for regression this season.”
Week 5’s primetime matchup at the Seattle Seahawks serves as proving grounds on several factors. Kirk Cousins, coming off his first playoff win, can buck the can’t win in primetime narrative further, but beyond Cousins, the game has major implications.
The Vikings young lineup will have tested the waters against three teams that made the postseason in 2019 but will face arguably their toughest test when the lights are the brightest in Seattle. Also, the Seahawks playing in an uber-tough NFC West Division and will likely be vying for a wild card spot in the postseason — making the head-to-head matchup vital in the tie-breaking process.
Week 14 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kickstarts the final stretch of the season where the Vikings will have to face Tom Brady, then go on the road to visit the Chicago Bears — whom they’ve lost four straight to. Their Christmas Day matchup against the New Orleans Saints follows and Rank feels that if the Vikings don’t get two wins in this stretch, it “could cost them the playoffs.”
The Vikings are still built to win while Cousins is under contract and coach Mike Zimmer’s continues to reshape his defense, but 2020 will be a telling year of the Vikings future with Zimmer entering a contract year.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire