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Have the Minnesota Vikings found the missing piece with Kirk Cousins?

It’s time to start scouting the 49ers opponents for 2018. Today it’s the Minnesota Vikings.

I’ll just come out and say it: Minnesota is scary. Very scary. If the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t the team to beat in the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings definitely are. In all facets of the game they have playmakers and developed draft picks that have turned them into a fearsome force in the National Football League.

2017 was a defining year for the Vikings and many thought they could have gone all the way if not for one small problem: their quarterback situation. Teddy Bridgewater was once thought of as the quarterback of the future, but a gruesome knee injury has kept him off the field for 2016, and he didn’t come off the pup list until 2017— long after Case Keenum had full control of the quarterback position.

Yep, Case Keenum. And that didn’t happen until second string quarterback Sam Bradford went down after re-aggravating his knee injury before Week 2. Case Keenum had a career year and the second best QBR of the season among active quarterbacks.

He picked a terrible time to remember he was Case Keenum, and that was the 2017 NFC Championship Game. Two interceptions, one fumble, and a 38-7 beatdown at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings defense definitely gave some things up, but Keenum’s turnovers certainly didn’t help.

The one thing holding the Vikings back was quarterback, and Keenum’s off to Denver, in his place is Kirk Cousins, who got a three-year deal with all guaranteed money. The Vikings one issue has been addressed and they are back to being the class of the NFC.

Oh yeah, we can’t talk about the Vikings without mentioning this. We might be a 49ers site, but this still reeks of awesome (home announcers). And it was pretty cool to see Vikings fans get a moment like that.

Draft picks

Round 1: Mike Hughes (CB)
Round 2: Brian O’Neill (OT)
Round 4: Jalyn Holmes (DE)
Round 5: Tyler Conklin (TE)
Round 5: Daniel Carlson (K)
Round 6: Colby Gossett (G)
Round 6: Ade Aruna (DE)
Round 7: Devante Downs (LB)

Notable free agent acquisitions

Kirk Cousins (QB)
Sheldon Richardson (DT)
Kendall Wright (WR)

The Vikings saw what they needed, and got Cousins for a 3-year, $84 million dollar deal all guaranteed. Given that was the weak point of the team last year and that they still managed quite well with Keenum, that’s definitely room for Vikings fans to be optimistic once Cousins gets his hands on the quarterback spot.

The addition of Sheldon Richardson doesn’t really improve or worsen the defense. The Minnesota defense was ranked number 1 for points against and lost defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen in free agency. Whether it’s an upgrade or a downgrade is anyone’s argument to make.

They also lost running back Jerick McKinnon in free agency to none other than the 49ers. With the Vikings, McKinnon was only a three-down back when necessary due to injuries with the rest of the backfield. When everyone was healthy, he was a pass-catching, change of pace back, and a really good one at that.

Way too early gambling line

Vikings -4.5

The matchup

The 49ers have vastly improved, but they are going on the road against one of the best teams in the league. It’s not a good matchup at all. Minnesota is a better team than the 49ers simply due to their system and stability having been around much longer and their players all well-developed in that system. There’s going to be a football game and no blowout, but Minnesota simply is a better opponent at this juncture.

At least, that’s what I would say if it wasn’t for one little detail: Week 1. The 49ers face the Vikings in Week 1 and the first week of the season usually results in some of the sloppiest football. The Jim Tomsula-led 49ers managed to beat the Vikings in Week 1 of 2015. Those same Vikings went on to hit the playoffs that year. That very same 49ers/Vikings game was ugly to watch, even as a 49ers fan.

Even with the Week 1 jitters, I don’t see the 49ers winning this one. The 49ers are improved, but the Vikings are none too happy how their season ended and they made the addition(s) needed to get them over the hump.

Regardless of win or loss and either by way of blowout, don’t look too hard into the performance here. Week 1 is the most inconsistent of weeks in the NFL.