The Vikings' season came to an ugly end in New Orleans last Friday, with a historically bad defensive performance guaranteeing their first losing record since the first year of Mike Zimmer's tenure back in 2014. Plenty of time will be spent eulogizing this team in the weeks to come, but it's clear that a combination of factors doomed the Vikings to a disappointing season. Injuries and bad luck played a role, as did an outdated offensive philosophy and failures by the front office, coaching staff, and players.
The 2021 season holds a great amount of potential for the Vikings, and as such my first instinct was to caution fans not to overreact to the woeful performance against the Saints. However, there are still a great deal of uncertainties and questions that must be addressed if the Vikings are going to make a leap into true contention next season, and not merely spend another year on the playoff bubble.
Like we do every week, let's check in on the national power rankings and see where the Vikings fall – and what the analysts have to say about them. They ranked between 16th and 21st last week.
Gary Gramling, SI.com: No. 19 (Down 2 spots)
After losing all their cornerbacks it was going to be a trying year for this defense, but losing Danielle Hunter for the season, Anthony Barr for all but two games and Eric Kendricks for the past month is the kind of thing that results in opponents dropping 52 on you on Christmas night.
Dan Hanzus, NFL.com: No. 23 (Down 3 spots)
A lost season hit its nadir in a spotlight game on Christmas Day. The Vikings surrendered 52 points and six touchdowns to Alvin Kamara in a blowout loss that officially eliminated Minnesota from postseason contention. After the game, Mike Zimmer chose not to mince words: "Yeah, this is a bad defense," Zimmer said. "Worst one I've ever had." The 52 points were the most allowed by the Vikings since 1963, while the 583 total yards by the Saints represented the most yielded to any opponent in the history of the franchise. You can probably guess where the Vikes will be putting their focus this offseason.
ESPN.com: No. 17 (Up 1 spot)
New Year's resolution: Commit to using star receivers
The Vikings can absolutely be a run-first team if they want to continue to carry that philosophy into 2021. It'd probably help if they were less predictable, like running less on second down, and one way to execute that is by prioritizing an uptick in usage for Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Minnesota has two star wideouts who should each be nearing double-digit targets every game and relied on in critical situations, such as two-minute drives and helping the team get back into contention when playing from behind. -- Courtney Cronin
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: No. 20 (Down 1 spot)
The defense is putrid, which has to anger Mike Zimmer, who made his bones as a defensive coach. That showing at New Orleans was embarrassing.
Bleacher Report: No. 23 (Down 2 spots)
It's been a miserable season in the Twin Cities — one that began with Super Bowl aspirations but will end with a meaningless game against the Lions. And it's fair to wonder what kind of changes could be coming after this faceplant.
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: No. 17 (Down 1 spot)
The Vikings defense should be embarrassed by what happened at New Orleans. The 583 yards allowed is a franchise record, and the 52 points allowed is the most by a Vikings defense since 1963. There have been many injuries on defense but that's still awful. Presumably Mike Zimmer will be back for 2021, but depending on what happens around the rest of the league, he might be the coach on the hottest seat entering next season.
Nate Davis, USA Today: No. 17 (Up 2 spots)
Kinda classic Kirk Cousins, who's thrown a career-best 32 TDs ... which will basically amount to nothing. Defense needs to show up in 2021.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: No. 18 (Down 1 spot)
The Vikings have been trying to keep their young and injury-riddled defense together with duct tape and zone coverage but it's caught up to them against the run, too. Kirk Cousins and the offense did as much as they could under the circumstances.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: No. 18 (Down 2 spots)
"Just good enough" will have to be good enough in 2021, 2022 and possibly beyond.
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