2018 Minnesota Vikings game-by-game predictions

The Minnesota Vikings were among the winners in free agency. Now it’s time to put their reworked roster to the test. After a 13-3 season that ended in the NFC Championship Game, Minnesota has high hopes to reach Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, but the Vikings will have to get through several tough road stretches and face five playoff teams.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1 p.m. ET

The 49ers come to town after winning their final five games in 2017 with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. Minnesota’s defense looks to continue its dominance at home when it faces former teammate Jerick McKinnon (San Francisco’s new bell-cow running back) after allowing 12.5 points per game at U.S. Bank Stadium last season. San Francisco has gotten better under Kyle Shanahan’s direction, as has Minnesota after a blockbuster offseason during which it signed quarterback Kirk Cousins. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

Minnesota opens division play early this season, and against Aaron Rodgers, whom the Vikings last saw Oct. 15, when Anthony Barr's hit broke the quarterback's collarbone. Mike Zimmer’s defense has a tough test at Lambeau against a Packers team that looks a lot different with Jordy Nelson gone and Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson new to Green Bay. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

With Tyrod Taylor out and AJ McCarron in at quarterback for Buffalo, Minnesota should have no trouble handling a Bills team that ranked 29th in total offense last season. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 27, at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m. ET

On a short week, Minnesota travels to La-La Land to face Jared Goff and the Rams’ dynamic offense while getting a taste of Arnold Donald, Ndamukong Suh and an equally flashy secondary. The Vikings won’t have as easy of a time dismantling the Rams as they did last season. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET

A couple of added days of rest and time to prepare for the team that knocked Minnesota out of Super Bowl contention is what the Vikings need after their second early road loss. New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo gets to scheme up the Vikings against the defense he faced every day in practice for two years. Record: 3-2

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Arizona Cardinals, 1 p.m. ET

Is that you, Sam Bradford? The Vikings could face their former quarterback in Week 6 in a game that might be the last one for Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald in his home state before he calls it quits after an illustrious career. Record: 4-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21 at New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET

This game will be emotional for Zimmer if Teddy Bridgewater remains on New York's roster after training camp. The Vikings came away victorious the last time they faced the Jets (an overtime win in 2014) and will do so again four years later when their loaded defensive line, featuring former Jet Sheldon Richardson, stifles New York’s offense. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m. ET

Let’s put the over/under on the number of times the Minneapolis Miracle is featured on highlight shows leading into this game at 150. Drew Brees and the Saints come back to U.S. Bank Stadium for a third time in just over a year, and this time they're victorious. Record: 5-3

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, vs. Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions handed the Vikings their only home loss last season. Minnesota has beaten its NFC North foe more times than any opponent in franchise history, and that trend continues in Week 9. Record: 6-3

Week 10: Bye

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

Coming off their bye, the Vikings head to a place where they flipped the script at Soldier Field last season. The Bears are better, but they’re still a season or two away from being able to go toe-to-toe with the Vikings. Record: 7-3

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Rodgers returns to the place where his 2017 season was derailed by injury. Now the Vikings know what this new-look Packers team is like, and they’ll get the best of Green Bay the second time around in prime time. Record: 8-3

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m. ET

Minnesota’s second matchup with a Super Bowl LII team is the first time the Vikings will have played at Gillette Stadium during Zimmer’s tenure. As long as the Patriots have Tom Brady at quarterback, they’re not going to lose a lot at home. Record: 8-4

Week 14: Monday, Dec. 10, at Seattle Seahawks, 8:15 p.m. ET

The Legion of Boom might be no more, but Seattle is still a tough draw. Minnesota has lost four straight to the Seahawks and will play its second West Coast game at night. Record: 8-5

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Coming off a 6-10 season, the Dolphins are still trying to reach for the playoffs, while Minnesota is in prime position to get beyond the NFC title game. Record: 9-5

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET

The Vikings gutted out a win in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day last year, but Matt Patricia’s defense gets the better of Cousins and Minnesota’s receivers this time. Record: 9-6

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30 vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

Minnesota caps off its regular-season slate with another victory against Chicago. The Vikings are back in the playoffs for a third time under Zimmer. Record: 10-6