2018 NFL Season Preview: Can the Minnesota Vikings separate themselves from the rest of the pack?

2018 Season Preview, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

It was a frisson inducing moment. Fans of the Minnesota Vikings joined together in raucous thunder clapping after having just witnessed an incredible last second Stefon Diggs touchdown that would later be dubbed the “Minneapolis Miracle.” The man leading the chants was Case Keenum, the quarterback who came out of nowhere to somehow win the Teddy Bridgewater vs Sam Bradford quarterback battle. The long time journey man was an unexpected hero in Minnesota and was now only a game away from leading the Vikings to a Super Bowl in their own home stadium.

A week later Keenum and the Vikings would be battered by a Philadelphia Eagles team that had the honor of winning their franchises first Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium.

The 2018 Vikings plan on being right back in the mix of things. They return every major piece of an incredible defense, and much of their offensive cast remains the same. Minnesota did make one key change on offense that they hope will make all the difference this season.

Keenum, Bradford and Bridgewater have all moved on from the Twin Cities and Kirk Cousins, formerly of the Washington Redskins, was handed a massive contract and the responsibility of leading the 2018 Vikings to the success the 2017 version let slip through their fingers.

Now with a star quarterback, one of the best receiving duos in the league in Diggs and Adam Theilen, the return of Dalvin Cook and a defense with pro bowl potential at every single position the Vikings have created a super team. Unfortunately, they play in a tough NFC where teams all around the conference have loaded up and are ready to make Super Bowl runs of their own.

Minnesota will yet again be among the favorites in the NFC, but have they done enough to distance themselves from the pack?

2018 NFL Season Preview: If not now for the Detroit Lions, then when?

2018 Season Preview, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Detroit Lions walked off Ford Field as winners in the final week of 2017 having pulled off a dominating victory against their arch-rival Green Bay Packers. The victory clinched a 9-7 record for Detroit meaning they had put together their first back to back winning seasons since 1995. It wrapped a season sweep of the Packers, the first over their NFC North foes since 1991.

Despite all of this 2017 will go down as a failure in the grand scheme of things.

Head Coach Jim Caldwell was fired and replaced by New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as the Lions ended the season without reaching the playoffs and their division title drought reached 24 years. Another year of Quarterback Matt Stafford’s prime went by without a playoff victory. They failed to produce a 100 yard rusher, marking four years since Reggie Bush completed the feat in 2013. Their retooled, rebuilt, offensive line couldn’t stay healthy and Stafford was sacked 47 times.

The Lions as a whole struggled in 2017. But the fact that they were able to post a winning record despite their struggles shows promise for the future. The future may not last as long as many Lions fans would like to believe, though.

TJ Lang and Rick Wagner, the two key pieces to 2017’s offseason offensive line retool, are 30 and 28 respectively. Lang will be a free agent after 2019, and both are on contracts that have potential outs after this season. Golden Tate, who has been the offenses best weapon since the departure of Calvin Johnson, is a free agent after 2018 and Detroit may not be able to retain him in an inflated receiver market.

For years we have been hearing about how the Detroit Lions only needed a few more years and a few more pieces before they could compete in the NFC. Eventually, the future will have to arrive in Detroit, and if not this year than the future may be further away than we think.

Offense  |  Defense Season Prediction