Entering quarterback Kirk Cousins’ fourth season in Minnesota, the Vikings have yet to win NFC North. Unless the Packers team buses make a detour through Idaho each game day, this streak is not likely to end. Still, the Vikings have a bunch of elite players – running back Dalvin Cook, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and defensive end Danielle Hunter – and their off-season additions have improved a defense that coach Mike Zimmer called the last season of ‘worst I have ever had. . “
At least Minnesota’s numbers are average. At best, he could win double-digit matches, good enough to land a wildcard spot.
– Ben Shpigel
Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
Key additions: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Kyle Pitts, RB Mike Davis, S Duron Harmon
Main departures: C Alex Mack, WR Julio Jones, S Ricardo Allen, S Keanu Neal, DE Charles Harris, CB Darqueze Dennard.
No team has imploded as spectacularly – or as often – as the Falcons, who lost nine (!) Games they led last season. In theory, this will not happen again. Expectations beyond that? _ (ツ) _ / ¯
The Falcons, under new management as coach (Arthur Smith) and general manager (Terry Fontenot), are in transition. After trading Jones and bypassing a potential Matt Ryan successor to draft Pitts to No.4 overall, Atlanta appears to be climbing a downward escalator. It will be up to defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who has been drawn out of retirement, to generate a lot of pressure – and Ryan to generate a lot of points. With Ryan working in a game-heavy offense that resembles that of his 2016 MVP season, that might be possible. In theory.
Carolina Panthers (5-11)
Key additions: QB Sam Darnold, LB Haason Reddick, OT Cameron Erving, CB Jaycee Horn
Main departures: WR Curtis Samuel, RB Mike Davis, QB Teddy Bridgewater, LG Chris Reed
The Panthers acquired Darnold from the Jets this spring in the hopes that pulling him out of the Jets’ juju – and surrounding him with, you know, better players – might unlock his promise. Bold strategy. In Season 2 under coach Matt Rhule, Carolina’s prospect of competing is rooted in too many assumptions (whether Darnold can bounce back, whether running back Christian McCaffrey can stay healthy, whether his youngster defense can merge) to be taken seriously.