Now entering its fifth season as the Vikings home, U.S. Bank Stadium can no longer truly be called "new." And yet, the state-of-the-art venue hasn't lost its luster.
The Vikings have gone 23-9 in regular-season home games since U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016; Minnesota also won its lone playoff game there thus far, the thrilling Minneapolis Miracle victory in January 2018. So while the stadium is not a favored destination for opposing teams, it's earned quite the positive reputation around the league by media members.
Recently, The Athletic's crew of NFL reporters ranked all of the current stadiums (with the exception of ones that weren't played in last season), and U.S. Bank Stadium came out on top. The Vikings home "landed on 23 ballots, finishing second to only Lambeau Field with seven first-place votes." Chad Graff wrote:
U.S. Bank Stadium has a few features that separate [it] from the rest of the pack, even among the newest stadiums. Of course, you'd have to start with the transparent roof, the first of its kind on a North American stadium. From the seats, you can see the downtown skyline through the glass. Many early arriving fans for the Super Bowl two years ago wore sunglasses, offering an outdoor feel in a state where you usually wouldn't want to be outdoors in February. ... From the outside, the glass paneling offers cool reflections of both the skyline and the sunset. There's no overhanging, massive jumbotron that could distract from actually watching the play below, and, importantly, the seats are spacious and comfortable. It's not perfect, of course. Occasionally, the corridors can feel a bit cramped. But in a time where many of the modern stadiums feel similar, Minnesota's stands out.
CenturyLink Field, where the Vikings have become accustomed to playing the Seahawks, came in second on The Athletic's rankings, followed by Dallas' AT&T Stadium, Green Bay's Lambeau Field and Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.
Although Lambeau Field received 10 first-place votes, the top three finishers all landed on more total top-five ballots. Matt Schneidman wrote the following about the venue the Vikings visit once each regular season:
Every time you attend a game at Lambeau Field, you feel like you're in an NFL history museum. The archaic feel, largest existing Lombardi Trophy replica, metal bleachers, extensive list of Packers NFL championships and many other features of the stadium make it a unique game-day attraction. In the smallest NFL market, the stadium pops up in the middle of nowhere in Northeast Wisconsin, surrounded by the most passionate of diehards who tailgate at all hours. You just don't get this combination of legacy and lunacy anywhere else.
To see the full rankings and breakdown, click here.
'Nuggets to know' about Vikings heading into 2020
The 2020 offseason has been a strange one, to be sure, with teams not yet having met in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as the NFL looks ahead to the anticipated opening of training camps, ESPN Stats & Information put together "a handful of notes of interest" on each of the 32 teams.
ESPN reminded readers of each team's 2019 record and returning starters followed by three "nuggets to know."
For the Vikings, ESPN first pointed out that the Vikings ran by design on 47 percent of their offensive plays in 2019, the second-most in the NFL behind the Ravens (51 percent). Dalvin Cook led all running backs with 73 rushes reaching 15 MPH, and he "accounted for the fifth-highest percentage of his team's scrimmage yards" last season.
Second, a look at Minnesota's defense. The Vikings finished 14th in the NFL in total defense in 2019 after having the stingiest yards allowed per game (300.2) from 2016-18. Minnesota ranked third in 2016, first in 2017 and fourth in 2018.
For better or worse, the Vikings moved on from key members of their 2019 defense, including CB Trae Waynes, DT Linval Joseph, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Mackensie Alexander and DE Everson Griffen. They'll look to get back to their old ways with fresh faces in first-round CBs Jeff Gladney and Mike Hughes, as well as free-agent DT Michael Pierce and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (7.0 sacks in his second season with the Vikings in 2019). They do return Danielle Hunter, who has recorded 29.0 sacks over the past two seasons, which trails only Aaron Donald (33.0) and Chandler Jones (32.0). In addition, he also produced the first pressure on 102 pass rushes in 2019, third in the NFL after Shaquil Barrett and Za'Darius Smith.
For the third "nugget to know," ESPN highlighted the performance of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who "ramped up his game" after Minnesota's Week 4 loss.
He ranked in the top five in the NFL in completion percentage (second), touchdown passes (tied for fourth) and yards per attempt (second) from Weeks 5 through 17. Cousins thrived on play-action as well in 2019, leading the NFL with 13 TD passes in that situation. He also earned his first career playoff victory and was given a two-year extension in March, keeping Cousins in Minnesota through 2022.
PFF breaks down 'best- and worst-case scenarios' for teams in 2020
Heading into the 2020 season, analytics site Pro Football Focus looked at "best- and worst-case scenarios" in regards to regular-season records for each of the 32 teams. PFF's Ben Linsey wrote:
With the help of recent season simulations carried out by PFF's research and development team, this article is an attempt to [the range of potential outcomes] with high- (90thpercentile) and low-end (10th percentile) win projections for every NFL team along with some narration on how they might reach that point._
Linsey said Minnesota's "90th-percentile outcome" would be finishing 11-5 this season. How would the Vikings arrive at that regular-season mark? Linsey opined:
An offensive scheme that continuously moves the pocket and stalls pass rushes with play action continues to get the best out of Kirk Cousins. Justin Jefferson proves to be an instant contributor who gives the Vikings a strong No. 2 option alongside Adam Thielen. Defensively, [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer continues to elevate the talent in players such as [Danielle] Hunter, Eric Kendricks and the safety duo of Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, which potentially covers for some of the deficiencies Minnesota has elsewhere.
According to Linsey, the "worst-case" scenario for the Vikings would be struggling to find chemistry and finishing 6-10.