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The Minnesota Vikings are one of 12 teams around the NFL to have never ended a season by raising the Vince Lombardi trophy in a sea of confetti.
Since their very first season in 1961, the Minnesota Vikings have been lucky enough to appear in a total of four Super Bowls. Unfortunately, the Vikings were never on the winning end of these games and the franchise is still searching for their very first Super Bowl victory.

Minnesota is actually one of 12 teams around the NFL to have never won a Super Bowl. This group, that accounts for 37.5 percent of the teams in the league, includes the Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, and Tennessee Titans.

Of this group, The Draft Network’s Brad Kelly believes that Minnesota has the best chance to come out of the upcoming 2019 NFL season with their first-ever Super Bowl victory.

“(Minnesota’s) success will seemingly come down to the play of Kirk Cousins, but he should become more comfortable in his second year with the franchise. Their path to a top seed is more clear than the others, as the NFC North winning Bears seemed destined to regress next season.

With added depth to the offensive line, Minnesota’s roster seemingly has no clear weakness. That could be just enough to finally put them over the top.”

While this is a glowing endorsement of the Vikings heading into 2019, let’s not pretend like the offensive line is automatically fixed because the team added some players during the offseason who could potentially improve the performance of the unit.

As Minnesota has learned in the past (see Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, T.J. Clemmings, etc.), more offensive line depth doesn’t always translate into better offensive line play. So to say that the Vikings have no clear weaknesses going into 2019 seems a bit far fetched.

Still, Minnesota does appear to have as good a shot to win the Super Bowl next season as any of the other teams who have yet to get a win in the big game.

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Does this mean the Vikings are being viewed as a Super Bowl contender in 2019? Not necessarily, but it does indicate that not many would be surprised if Minnesota actually did end next season with a championship.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Sloppy play, penalties and injuries hurt the Vikings in a 14-10 preseason loss to the Jaguars on Saturday, and the injuries might have a lasting effect as the team prepares for Week 1.

Minnesota had six players leave the game with injuries and not return. Three players were carted off: defensive end Ade Aruna (knee), offensive lineman Cedrick Lang (lower leg) and fullback Johnny Stanton (lower leg).

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and was listed as questionable to return. Center Josh Andrews injured his ankle at the beginning of the third quarter on an incomplete pass and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. After rookie Jeff Badet caught a 13-yard pass from Kyle Sloter in the fourth quarter, the receiver took a vicious hit to the head that put him in the concussion protocol.

A handful of these injuries appear to be serious, as coach Mike Zimmer said he expects that several players will be lost for the season. He noted postgame that Lang will undergo surgery.

“The list was so long I don’t remember the exact number, so I’ll just wait until we put them on IR,” Zimmer said.

Outside of Alexander, many of the players injured Saturday were fighting for a roster spot.

“Yeah I feel bad for those guys because they come in here and work their rear ends off,” Zimmer said. “We had a huge number of injuries today, you never want your guys to get injured and it was kind of freaky things; we get rolled up on, it was unfortunate things today opposed to, you know [Jeff] Badet got hit in the head.”

Minnesota entered Saturday down four starters on the offensive line: Mike Remmers (ankle), Rashod Hill (ankle), Pat Elflein (PUP) and Nick Easton (IR — neck).

Aviante Collins started in place of Hill before moving to left tackle and subsequently left guard. Cornelius Edison, who started the game at center, had to come back in after Andrews got hurt and played almost a full game.

Players have cited the “next man up” mentality throughout training camp, as injuries have forced the Vikings to continue to shuffle personnel across all positions except left tackle. Building continuity while continually adjusting for new personnel has proved to be the most challenging part of the process.

“We have to get on the stick here pretty quick,” Zimmer said. “I think Remmers will be back next week, which will be good. I think Elflein has a chance to get back here pretty soon. That will help. I don’t know about Rashod yet, so we’ll see. It’s tough, but we’re not the only ones in the league to be having these issues, I’m sure. We just have a few more than we should have at this point in time. That’s life.”

Playing behind a rotating offensive line is something quarterback Kirk Cousins has grown used to over the years. Injuries in Washington in 2017 forced the Redskins to use 36 offensive line combinations.

“You learn to roll with the punches in this league,” Cousins said. “You can’t start to say, ‘Well, that’s not how we drew it up, so now we’re not going to plan on doing great things,’ so you just play and take whatever’s thrown at you, and that’s the only way you have a chance to have success. I think that the players who have come in in place of some of our starting offensive linemen have done a good job and have been ready to play. Coach Flip is doing a really good job with the game plan and playcalling to accentuate our strengths and try to protect us from some of our weaknesses, and that’s what a great playcaller does.”

In his second game with Minnesota, Cousins went 3-of-8 for 12 yards and finished with a 45.8 passer rating. A far cry from his crisp performance in Minnesota’s preseason opener in Denver, Cousins played four series to start the game, with his closest drive ending at Jacksonville’s 27-yard line, which forced the Vikings to settle for a 44-yard field goal.

Cousins had his day end after one series to open the second quarter following an incomplete pass to Stefon Diggs on third down. As a team, Minnesota’s offense finished Saturday 0-for-12 on third down.

“I think he can play a lot better,” Zimmer said of Cousins.

Added Cousins: “Probably not the worst thing in the long run to realize we’ve got a lot of work to do. If you want to call it a wake-up call, that’s fine, but it’ll get us ready to go when we get back on Monday.”

Running back Latavius Murray’s struggles with ball security were uncharacteristic for a player who fumbled eight times over the first four years of his career and lost only two. Murray fumbled two times on his first five carries.

The lone bright spot on offense centered around the competition for the No. 3 running back spot. Mike Boone rushed 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, rebounding after an up-and-down outing last week in Denver.

“To be honest with you, I’m glad we didn’t win that game today because we didn’t deserve to win,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t play well enough, and we’re going to get back to work and get going here.”

Authentic Football Vikings Womens Cheap Harrison Smith Jersey 2017

In the NFL, the safety position isn’t as disrespected as running back in terms of being able to fill the spot with unproven youngsters, but it’s not far behind. Just as slow-footed college offensive tackles are moved inside at the NFL level, college safeties face draft competition from college cornerbacks lacking elite deep speed or big corners that can be heavy-hitting safeties.

Yet, when a safety stands out, he can be as dominant a player on the field. The NFC North has two such corners – Harrison Smith and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Both can make the individual play that changes the momentum of a game and their value is higher among coaches than it is among capologists. If you have a great one, you hold onto him.

The NFC North has varying degrees of safety dominance. It’s a case of the haves and the have-nots, but even the have-nots aren’t that shabby.

Green Bay Packers – Last year, the Packers were fortunate to have Aaron Rodgers leading their offense, because their defense allowed opposing quarterbacks to have a combined passer rating of 95.9 and throw for 32 touchdowns. Much of the problem was due to a skeletonized cornerback corps, because, at the top, they have a pair of difference-makers at safety. Nobody is laughing at Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has quickly developed into one of the league’s best safeties and will pose the Packers with an interesting contract conundrum if allowed to get into the fifth-year option the Packers picked up in May. He deserves to be paid and the Packers will have to pony up at some point. Veteran Morgan Burnett has been a consistent playmaker and is the quarterback of the secondary – giving Green Bay a potent 1-2 punch that helps make up for deficiencies at other parts of the Packers defense. Beyond them, depth is razor-thin – none of the other five safeties have more than one year of pro experience – but the team used a second-round pick on 6-foot-2, 200-pound Josh Jones out of North Carolina State to develop behind Burnett and Clinton-Dix with the expectation he will provide continuity for when Burnett’s production starts to slide or Clinton-Dix potentially leaves via free agency. Other teams have more depth, but nobody has more talent at the top.

Minnesota Vikings – Harrison Smith is the best safety in the division and has been for two or three years. Before the team locked down other defensive standouts, Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen, they made sure they locked down Smith before he could get into the free agent/franchise tag discussion. Beyond Smith, however, the Vikings have had a revolving door of players ascending to the other safety spot. Andrew Sendejo is the latest in that process, but the Vikings continue to line up the shark teeth behind him, including Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse, Antone Exum (who has taken on cornerback work to assure a roster spot) and rookie Jack Tocho. The Vikings have talent at safety beyond Smith, but not a second player that can push Burnett and Clinton-Dix off the top spot … yet.

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Chicago Bears – There was a time not too long ago that division teams hated going up against the Bears safeties because they were ball-hawks with a penchant for making the back-breaking big play. After recording just eight interceptions last year, the Bears looked to overhaul their secondary and they used both the draft and free agency to get the job done. Chicago went to free agency to sign Quintin Demps and used a fourth-round pick to draft Eddie Jackson out of Alabama. When the regular season starts, both of them could be starters. Neither incumbent starter – third-year pros Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey – has stood out in terms of playmaking ability, but they do provide competition and depth that was sorely lacking last season. If 2016 fourth-round draft picks Deon Bush and Delondre Hall can take the next step, the Bears may have the most quality depth at the position, but the lack of an elite playmaker slots them here behind Green Bay and Minnesota.

Detroit Lions – The Lions were unproductive in pass defense, so you can form your own opinion that they’re returning all their secondary starters from last season. Entering his ninth season, Glover Quin has been a solid player and has been a veteran steadying influence, but he’s been more a tackler than a turnover creator and a decline in production can be expected given his age. Tavon Wilson washed out in New England, but had a decent first season in Detroit. 2016 rookie Miles Killebrew got action as a nickel safety last season and is expected to push for more playing time. Another nine-year veteran – Don Carey – is the primary backup to Quin and he’s lost a step as well.
Todd McShay ranks top safeties for 2018 NFL Draft
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There are reasons for all four teams in the division to have high expectations for their safety groups, but what separates great units from good ones and good ones from bad ones are the inclusion of Pro Bowl-quality players. Those that have them have guys who make the game-changing play that can lock down a win. The Packers and Vikings have won more games in recent years with safeties than the Lions and Bears, which is why the rankings at this position tend to correlate with where those teams are projected finish. Coincidence?