What constitutes a successful 2020 NFL season for the Minnesota Vikings?
Since Mike Zimmer was named head coach back in 2014, the Vikings have made the NFC playoffs three times, won the NFC North division crown twice and have not had a losing season in the last five years. For those reasons, we can expect the Vikings to be one of the better teams in NFC North play this fall. From there, it’s about the matchups and getting a few breaks along the way.
If we want to define the Vikings’ Super Bowl window for 2020, you could say it’s open, but they’re not one of the favorites to come out of the NFC. However, there are a few paths for a successful season for them. What would be considered a strong campaign and what would disappointment look like for the Vikings? Let’s find out now.
The Minnesota Vikings need to make the NFC playoffs and win in January
Having an expanded postseason field in the NFC shouldn’t make a world of difference for Zimmer’s team. The Vikings were likely going to be one of the six best teams in the NFC this year anyway, so all adding a seventh playoff team does is give Minnesota even more margin for error. If they are anything below the seventh-best team in the NFC in 2020, then that’ll be a huge problem.
From a scheduling standpoint, the Vikings will face each of their division rivals twice, the NFC South in its entirety and the AFC South in its entirety out of divisional rotation. From a competitive balance standpoint, the Vikings inherit a second-place schedule and thus, will play the Dallas Cowboys out of the NFC East and the Seattle Seahawks out of the NFC West this year.
If everything goes right for the Vikings during the 16-game regular season, maybe they can go 12-4 and have the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Going 11-5 or 10-6 or maybe even as bad as 9-7 feels a bit more realistic. However, any of those marks should be good enough to get the Vikings into the playoffs as a top-seven seed in the NFC. They have the schedule to make it work in 2020.
So let’s say the Vikings have the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They must win their home playoff game in the divisional round, host the NFC Championship game and get to their first Super Bowl since Fran Tarkenton was their superstar quarterback. It’s been a very long time since the Vikings last got to the Super Bowl, but that is what is required of them if they have home-field advantage in the NFC.
Should the Vikings win the NFC North, but have the No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed, they must win on Wild Card Weekend at home and put forth a better effort than they did last year in the divisional round vs. the San Francisco 49ers. We may only get one playoff victory out of the Vikings in this scenario, but not embarrassing themselves in the divisional round would be a huge improvement.
And if the Vikings don’t win the NFC North and are looking up at someone like the Green Bay Packers in the divisional standings, Minnesota still probably needs to win on Wild Card Weekend, especially if it’s the No. 5 seed. The separation between No. 4 and No. 5 isn’t much. Plus, the Vikings went on the road and defeated the New Orleans Saints as the underdog last season.
So what does this all mean really anyway? For Minnesota to have a successful season, Zimmer must be a top-eight head coach in the NFL, Kirk Cousins must be top-10 quarterback in the league, Dalvin Cook must be top-five running back and the Vikings defense must be top-five as well. If all this happens, Minnesota may have its best year since 2017 and play for the NFC title.
Realistically, anything short of a valiant effort in the divisional round and a double-digit win regular season would be seen as a massive disappointment for the Vikings. Though there are better teams than them in the NFC, the Vikings are a major reason we applaud the NFC for having more viability in the upper half than its AFC counterpart. Minnesota must build on what it did last year.
If the Vikings lose by more than one score in the divisional round, 2020 will have been a letdown.