As someone who generally considers himself an optimist, or at least a pragmatist, I find myself in somewhat unfamiliar territory when it comes to my outlook on the Vikings this season.
Compared to the six colleagues who also made predictions about this year's team in advance of Sunday's opener against Green Bay, I'm a downright pessimist.
Everyone else — columnists and beat writers — has the Vikings pegged for a 10-7 or 9-8 season, winning marks that likely would be accompanied by a trip to the seven-team NFC playoffs.
So why did I pick them to finish 7-10?
Well, as explained on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast, there are a few key reasons my opinion has shifted into more negative territory in recent weeks:
- Depth on this roster remains a major concern. Aside from running back, it's hard to look at the depth chart and find a position that wouldn't be severely damaged by a major injury. And even at running back, the drop-off from Dalvin Cook to the rest of the crew is noticeable.
The fact that seven of the 11 players chosen during Rick Spielman's final draft in charge in 2021 were cut from the 53-man roster by the new regime before this season started should tell you everything. There is a lot of work that remains on the margins of this team — players who help teams survive injuries — and quality depth will take years, not months, to build.
- The defense is concerning on multiple levels. When in the new base 3-4 scheme, how will players adapt to new roles and assignments? And on the majority of snaps when the Vikings are in a nickel package or some other sub-group, won't they look a lot like the teams from the past two seasons that struggled mightily to get off the field?
- There are simply too many unknowns on a team that has missed the playoffs three of the last four years, including the last two. Big changes require an adjustment period, but the nature of the NFL schedule is unforgiving.
This roster hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt, and O'Connell hasn't earned anything yet as a first-year head coach. That could change quickly as the year goes on, but for now I'll be content to let the Vikings prove me wrong instead of prove me right as a winning team.