Vikings predicted to be a ‘sleeper to overperform’ in 2021

(Photo by Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports) Dalvin Cook
(Photo by Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports) Dalvin Cook /
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Some recent predictions for the 2021 NFL season featured some optimistic comments about the Minnesota Vikings.

Throughout their history, the Minnesota Vikings have always seemed to perform their best when there isn’t much expected from them heading into a season.

Two of the most notable instances of the Vikings greatly exceeding their preseason expectations took place in 1998 and 2017. Some probably thought Minnesota could earn a spot in the playoffs prior to both of these specific seasons beginning, but few likely believed they would go on to win at least 13 games and make it to that year’s NFC Championship during each campaign.

The 2021 season is beginning to have some similar feelings about it in terms of the Vikings possibly being able to far exceed their moderate expectations.

Minnesota Vikings predicted to potentially be a sleeper team in 2021

Following the release of the 2021 NFL schedule last week, NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund recently shared her projected win totals for each team in the NFC for next season. For Minnesota, Frelund has them with a projected win total of 8.4 in 2021.

Unfortunately, this amount is only the 11th-highest in her NFC projections, which would mean no playoffs for the Vikings next season.

Despite not predicting Minnesota to be a postseason team in 2021, Frelund did share a rather optimistic opinion about the purple and gold’s chances next season.

"“The Vikings are one team I have an eye on as a sleeper to overperform offseason expectations. The schedule looks kind enough to Minnesota, with no exceptionally difficult back-to-backs, relatively favorable travel, and a lack of daunting matchups; if the defense and offensive line outpace projections, we could see this group reach the playoffs.”"

To come up with her 2021 win totals, Frelund used each team’s projected 53-man rosters and simulated all 272 regular-season games 50,000 times.

So her comments about the Vikings are more opinion-based and less on the analytical data she utilized to generate her 2021 win totals.

Heading into next season, Minnesota has a bunch of things working in their favor. Their offense still has a ton of playmakers, including Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Irv Smith Jr., Adam Thielen, and Kirk Cousins. On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings added some very talented free agents this year, and several of their top veteran defenders will be returning to the field from injuries.

Will 2021 turn out to be a season like 1998 or 2017 where Minnesota surprises a bunch of people and emerges as a top contender in the NFC? Or will their final win total just end up being close to what Frelund’s projections have them finishing with next season?