The 2018 NFL season is set to kick off and the Minnesota Vikings have major expectations waiting on them this year. After making it all the way to the NFC Championship Game last season and falling to the Eagles, the Vikings are hoping to take another step forward. Many think they can represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Minnesota went out and made it a point to make a splash in free agency. Kirk Cousins was one of the biggest additions of the offseason and without question makes the Vikings a more dangerous football team. The Vikings also return an impressive group of talent around Cousins on offense and one of the league’s top defenses.
That being said, the Vikings are set to face off against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon. It is a game that used to be viewed as an easy win, but San Francisco is no longer a bad team.
Mike Zimmer’s football team will find out what they are made of this week to open the season. If they take this game lightly and let the hype surrounding them get to their head, the Vikings are going to take a loss.
All of that being said, which three players in particular need to step up and be major X-factors for the Vikings in Week 1 vs. the 49ers?
Laquon Treadwell, Wide Receiver
First up on the list is wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who was drafted with the No. 23 overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft and has yet to make much of an impact. Treadwell had a solid showing in training camp and preseason action and is hoping to have a big first week. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Treadwell could be exactly the kind of No. 3 target that Cousins needs alongside Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Kyle Rudolph, Tight End
Sticking with the offensive side of the football, tight end Kyle Rudolph is hoping to have another big year. He has been a top-notch security blanket for the Vikings’ offense in years past and Cousins has loved to use tight ends throughout his career. Rudolph may not be a top-five tight end when the season is done, but he does need to be a consistent target for Cousins to utilize.
Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle
Another big offseason addition for the Vikings was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who was viewed as a potential steal immediately upon signing with Minnesota. Joining an already strong defense, Richardson will be asked to shut down the run game for opposing offenses and get some push to the quarterback. If Richardson can get back to being a legitimate star on the line, the Vikings’ defense is even more scary to face.
Expect to see the Vikings make a strong impression in Week 1 against the 49ers. They are going to have their hands full this week but should be able to come away with a win if they play up to their full potential.