Projected record: 8–8
Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury has scared the Vikings enough to decline his fifth-year option, which leads me to believe Sam Bradford will again spend all year as the starter. After a 5–0 start last year, the league caught up to Bradford and the Vikings, who went 3–8 after their bye week. Minnesota will need to get creative this summer.
Pivotal game: Week 14 at Panthers. If you accept that the Packers are winning the NFC North and the Buccaneers or Falcons are taking the NFC South, this game could be a future head-to-head tiebreaker for a wild-card spot. The Vikings ran roughshod over the Panthers last season, when their defensive front appeared unstoppable.