The Vikings sent a 2017 first-round and 2018 4th round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford, who has been trying to get out of Philadelphia ever since the Eagles traded up to snag Carson Wentz before the draft. Lucky for Bradford his wish came true, because not only does he never have to play a down for the Eagles again, he also finds himself as the starting QB for last year's NFC North Champions. Not only that, but if the Vikings were desperate to pay so much for a mediocre-QB, then Teddy Bridgewater may not be coming back at 100% next year either, and a little insurance is never a bad thing.
I see this as a win for the Eagles organization as well. They weren't going to have a first-round pick this year because of their deal to get Wentz, and with this trade now they do. Assuming the Vikings do roughly the same as last year, the pick will most likely be in the low 20s, which if you have your QB of the future, that isn't such a bad place to pick. The biggest question, to me, is whether or not this was a good deal on the Vikings part? Is Sam Bradford, and the 2016 Minnesota season, really worth a first round pick in 2017 and a fourth-rounder in 2018?
Let's break this down. Adrian Peterson isn't getting younger, and Minnesota is built to be a ball-control, low-risk/high-reward team. Since this isn't a team that relies heavily on the passing game (or at least, not as heavily as most teams) and essentially only wanted Teddy to not lose games, not win them, trading so much for a QB seems a little extreme. And this doesn't even consider the fact that Sam Bradford is Captain Mediocre and lost some serious street cred when he whined about the Eagles making a run for Wentz. Not only that, but Bradford is also Captain IR, having been injured so many times in his fairly short career. From this perspective, I think the Vikings panicked and gave up entirely way too much.
On the other side, though, the Vikes needed to do something. You can't just lose your starting QB for the season in a preseason practice and do nothing. This current regime must feel its window closing soon with Adrian Peterson in his early thirties, although the rest of the talent on the roster is fairly young. And, honestly, in terms of passing I feel like Bradford is a slight upgrade over Bridgewater, so there is some cause for hope. The downside is that Sam Bradford has now played for 3 different teams in the past 4 years, and he has been forced to learn so many playbooks and schemes over that time.
My biggest problem with this deal is the price-tag. Sam Bradford is not worth that much, but clearly the Vikings are desperate to be competitive again this year and hold on to the divisional crown. It makes me wonder if Teddy's injury is far worse than they are letting on, and they aren't expecting him to be 100% by the start of 2018. I know that seems a little insane, but why else would they invest so much into winning right now? Regardless, I hope this works out for Minnesota; God knows they have been through more than their fair share of heartbreak lately.
Two sentences sum up New England's off-season. First, "Oh my God, just let it die, Goodell" and "We're on the Jimmy G." In case you've been living sans-society, Tom Brady has officially given up and will accept a 4 game suspension for his alleged role in DeflateGate. Whether or not you agree with this is irrelevant, because it's happening, and it's time to move on (finally).
But while the Pats were waiting for the saga to play out, they reloaded their roster in what appears to be the last major push to win Brady/Belichick their fifth ring together. They signed Martellus Bennett to be the opposite big man TE to Gronk, they traded away talented-but-controversial DE Chandler Jones for O-linemen Jonathan Cooper in hopes of protecting Brady more, they also signed another small, shifty receiver in Chris Hogan as well as picked up DE Chris Long. So in typical New England fashion, the Patriots have made a bunch of little tweaks in hopes of becoming even more potent offensively.
Of course, there is the Brady suspension to deal with. He will be out the first four games, which is a nice little segue into the schedule breakdown.
New England Patriots 2016 Schedule
Week 1: @ Arizona (Sunday Night)
Week 2: Miami
Week 3: Houston (Thursday Night)
Week 4: Buffalo
Week 5: @ Cleveland
Week 6: Cincinnati
Week 7: @ Pittsburgh
Week 8: @ Buffalo
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Seattle (Sunday Night)
Week 11: @ San Francisco
Week 12: @ New York Jets (Sunday Night)
Week 13: Los Angeles
Week 14: Baltimore (Monday Night)
Week 15: @ Denver
Week 16: New York Jets
Week 17: @ Miami
Random Thought: This may be the toughest schedule the Patriots' have had in years.
Home Schedule: First off, three of the first four games of the season are at home (and without Brady). The Dolphins, Texans, and Bills all will feature defensive lines that will be centered around getting to the quarterback. The good news, though, is that since those games are at home Jimmy Garoppolo won't have to worry about crowd noise while conducting his offense. I don't expect those three games to be easy; of the group I would say the Texans will be the easiest out. Why? Because it's a Thursday Night game and the away team has a huuuuuge disadvantage, plus I think their offense will be as mediocre as it was last year, maybe even worse now that everyone knows to clamp down DeAndre Hopkins. The next few home games are Cincinnati, Seattle, and Los Angeles; all three boast strong defenses with two of the three being serious Super Bowl contenders. I have a feeling the Seahawks game will be one of the most intense games of the year, and since it's Sunday Night, it will be like playing at 5pm for the visiting team. Lastly the Pats have Baltimore and the New York Jets, both of which consider themselves rivals, both of which have been thorns in the side of fans in the past decade or so. Not an easy home schedule at all.
Away Schedule: Arizona to open the season would have been a "Super Bowl Preview" as news channels and broadcasters like to say...if Brady was playing. Cleveland should be a gimme considering that's the Brady Return Game (although, Cleveland has put up a heckuva fight against the Pats the last two outings, winning one). Pittsburgh will be a tough game, because by that point LeVeon Bell should be back from his suspension (if there is one) and will be fresh. The Super Ryan Brothers will have Buffalo pumped up when the Pats visit in Week 8. San Francisco should be a gimme game, the Jets always play the Pats tough, Denver has not been Brady's happy place, and ditto Miami.
Conclusion: There are very few "gimme games" on the Patriots' schedule this year. Even if the entire first string hits IR by Week 5, I don't imagine the Pats losing to the Browns or the 49ers. This season, like last season, will come down to the overall healthy of the team. If Gronk, Edelman, and Brady stay healthy throughout the season then the Patriots have a legitimate chance to secure the #1 seed. But this is a very top heavy team, and as we saw last year, after the starters go down there isn't much depth behind them.
The last time we saw Minnesota, we watched as the Vikings trotted off the field after Blair Walsh shanked a frozen football wide left in what should have been a great victory over the Seahawks. Of course, whether or not the Vikes would have stood a chance against the buzzsaw known as the Panthers is a different debate, but aside from losing the Super Bowl on the last play of the game, that might be the absolute worst way to end a season. Last season the Vikings were a surprise; I don't think very many people outside Minnesota thought they legitimately stood a chance to win the division barring a major injury to Aaron Rodgers. But even with a healthy QB in Green Bay, the Vikes were able to win the division, announcing that they were to be taken seriously. Of course, this season is a little different, as I can imagine the players and fans are eager to take that next step. After all, Adrian Peterson isn't getting any younger.
Unlike many teams around the league, Minnesota has a good core of young players in Teddy Bridgewater, Steffon Diggs, Anthony Barr, and others. The defense is solid despite the loss of Jared Allen to retirement, and of course Adrian Peterson is arguably the best running back in the league (still!). The biggest question for this team is whether or not Bridgewater can take the next step and start airing the ball out. If he gets comfortable with deep and intermediate routes, watch out, the Vikings will be very tough to beat.
Minnesota Vikings 2016 Schedule
Week 1: @ Tennessee
Week 2: Green Bay (Sunday Night)
Week 3: @ Carolina
Week 4: New York Giants (Monday Night)
Week 5: Houston
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: @ Philadelphia
Week 8: @ Chicago (Monday Night)
Week 9: Detroit
Week 10: @ Washington
Week 11: Arizona
Week 12: @ Detroit (Thanksgiving)
Week 13: Dallas (Thursday Night)
Week 14: @ Jacksonville
Week 15: Indianapolis
Week 16: @ Green Bay
Week 17: Chicago
Random Thought: Of the other 7 divisional winners from a season ago, Minnesota gets to play 4 this season. Lucky them.
Home Schedule: It's not going to be an easy ride for the Vikings at home this season. Week 2 against Green Bay on Sunday Night is the inaugural game before returning two weeks later on Monday Night against a revamped Giants team looking to make one last serious push before Eli is done. Houston is most likely the favorite to win their division. Who knows what Detroit will bring; even if they have a losing season the Lions can still be pesky in divisional play. The Arizona game could go along way in determining playoff seeding, and might be quite the game to watch assuming both sides are still healthy (looking at you, Palmer). Ditto for Dallas (Romo, Witten, Dez). Indianapolis I expect to have a down season, even if Andrew Luck returns to his 2014 form. And then of course the last game of the season against Chicago, which very well could be a "do or die" game for the Vikings. If everyone still has their quarterbacks throughout the season, this is a really tough schedule. But, the one upside is that Manning, Palmer, and Romo are all over 35 and have injury histories.
Away Schedule: Tennessee should be better this year, but as I've said in other posts, they are still a few years removed from being consistently competitive. Carolina will be vying for the #1 seed again, and this game may help decide playoff seeding. Philly is in a transition year, meaning the Vikes should be favored in that game. Monday Night in Chicago will be a tough game, as prime time NFC North games usually are. I feel like the Washington game will be hard fought. Detroit, once again, who knows. Jacksonville is the trendy pick to be really good this year (I agree) and should be a tough out. And then the main event, the last away game of the season against Green Bay that, in my opinion, will ultimately decide who wins the division. Overall the away schedule is a bit of a roller coaster between the best teams (Carolina, Green Bay) and the most likely worst teams (Tennessee, Philly) in the NFL.
Conclusion: If the Vikings stay healthy and Adrian Peterson shows no drop off in play, the Vikings could have a repeat of last year. Unlike last season, though, they play the top teams in the other NFC divisions in Arizona and Carolina, both games could mean the deciding factor in playoff seeding. But for that to matter, one thing needs to happen: Teddy Bridgewater needs to throw downfield more. The Madden Play "HB Dive" with Adrian Peterson only works for so long until the defense starts forcing the QB to do something.