1. Minnesota Vikings
Winners of the NFC North twice in the past three seasons, the Minnesota Vikings deservedly sit atop these power rankings in early June.
Reason to be optimistic: Elite defense
Really I could have picked about five things here. Dalvin Cook‘s return was almost my choice. It may have only been a small sample size, but Cook looked like a star last season, and now that he’s fully healthy, Minnesota’s ground game should get even stronger.
But the Vikings’ biggest strength is their defense. Minnesota has one of the league’s top secondaries, and now welcomes first-round draft pick Mike Hughes to the mix. Its defensive line is dominant, too.
Last year the Vikings finished first in overall defense, first in scoring defense, second against the pass and second against the run.
There’s no reason to believe Mike Zimmer’s team won’t be just as strong on defense this year.
Cause for concern: Is Kirk Cousins the answer?
Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback. But is he $84 million, fully-guaranteed good? I’m not so sure. Cousins is the third best QB in the NFC North behind Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.
It’s hard to blame the Vikings for making the move. It’s rare that a quarterback on Cousins’ level hits free agency, and they had to spend big to sign him.
But now that they have so much invested in Cousins, he needs to be the quarterback to take them to the next level. That’s where some doubt creeps in.