In honor of one the best, if not the best, male pop artists in pop music whom I have to admit I admired as a musician and composer as a teenager even though I preferred the traditional rock and roll back in the day……..the recently deceased and Superbowl XLI half-time performer which Billboard ranked as the best Superbowl performance ever……..Prince, I bring you my 2016 fantasy outlook of his favorite NFL team …….the Minnesota Vikings! After all, Prince’s song “Purple and Gold” was written for the team in 2010 when the Viking reached the NFL Playoffs and Minneapolis was where he called home.

I realize that not all are a big fan of the famed musician but he is an icon in the music industry and one that should not be dismissed just as the Minnesota Vikings should not be dismissed as a favorite to win the NFC North Division in the NFL so let me explain why the Vikings are serious contenders in the NFC.

Let’s first look at their Division rivals.

FFWIMAGE-BearsChicago Bears
The Bears are one of the most poorly mismanaged teams in the NFL in my opinion as they refuse to retain their most valuable players from year to year and this year it is RB Matt Forte and TE Martellus Bennett. Last year it was WR Brandon Marshall. Next up it is “oft-injured” WR Alshon Jeffery after the Bears failed to reach a long-term agreement with him and instead are willing to let him play under the franchise tag leaving Jeffery to be frustrated and discontent. If the Bears worked harder to keep some of these “core” players, then they could very well be competing for a Championship.

To the Bears credit, they were able to sign former Denver Broncos LB Danny Trevathlon to a contract who will certainly provide some much needed help on their defense but that is not enough for them to compete for the Division and not fair to the rest of the team to expect them to do so.

As far as Quarterback goes, RB Matt Forte was recently quoted as saying that QB Jay Cutler “has unfairly received a bad rap” which I do tend to agree with as many fans have turned their back to him due to their interpretation of his demeanor on the sideline.

But the Bears refusal to commit to their stud players has limited not only Cutler but the Bears offense and the team in general. Yes, the Bears do get a “hopefully healthy” WR back in Kevin White after missing his rookie year due to injury but he is still unproven in the NFL and has some big shoes to fill after the Bears let their veteran stud WR Brandon Marshall walk last year.

Can the Bears finally prove they can overcome losing their stud players year after year? I’ll just say they have their hands full…….yet again! Will they be competitive…….Yes! Will they win their Division…….NO!

FFWIMAGE-PackersGreen Bay Packers
The biggest gain for the Packers this year is that they have WR Jordy Nelson coming back from injury but QB Aaron Rodgers has shown signs of regression and if Jordy does not pick up where he left off, then guys like Randall Cobb, DeVante Adams and crew have already shown that they are not capable of shouldering the load at the Wide Receiver position without Nelson. The Packers recently acquired TE Jared Cook but he has been injured and has been a teaser his whole career leaving Richard Rodgers to carry the load once again at TE.

RB Eddie Lacy may be the biggest factor as to whether or not the Packers are able to rebound this year after coming off a year that he was accused of being lazy and out of shape resulting in him teaming up with P90X founder Tony Horton which looks to have done Lacy some good physically but it’s what he does on the field that matters so time will tell whether Lacy is able to rebound from a disappointing year..

The unexpected retirement of DT B.J. Raji left the Packers reeling with an already depleted defensive line leaving them with no choice but to draft the former UCLA Bruin DT Kenny Clark in the 2016 NFL Draft.

I look for Rodgers to have a much better year than last year with Jordy back and Lacy hopefully rejuvenated but is it enough for the Packers to regain their role as Division Champs? I am not so sure of that.

FFWIMAGE-LionsDetroit Lions
The biggest story of the off-season for the Lions and perhaps the NFL is their loss of Calvin Johnson to retirement. This was definitely a surprise to me and I am sure the rest of the NFL Community including the Detroit Lions.

This leaves Golden Tate and newly acquired Mohammed Sanu to pick up the slack at WR and Matt Stafford with the pressure of delivering the ball to a receiver not labeled Megatron!

There is not a better time for TE Eric Ebron to step up and fill that pass-catching void at TE as many fantasy owners are expecting him to do. If you don’t recognize their third WR (TJ Jones), you are not alone but may want to familiarize yourself with him as he could be that “deep sleeper” that we all look for as he started to show signs of filling that third WR role last year and could very well carve his way into a larger role in the offense this year with the departure of Calvin Johnson.

The RB situation is a mess in Detroit with only Theo Riddick having proven to be any significant value to the offense after the team drafted a ball-dropping Amir Abdullah with the second pick in round two of the 2015 NFL Draft and acquiring a promising undrafted free agent in Zach Zenner the same year only to lose him in week 6 due to injuries to his ribs and lung. If you want to learn more about my thoughts on Zach Zenner before he entered the NFL, you can learn them here but he, nor any other RB on the Lions team has proven that they can give their team the ball control that the offense needs to be productive.

DL Ezekiel Ansah and CB Darius Slay are really the only “stand out” guys on the Lions Defense which has a huge void at Linebacker that they failed to address until the 5th round of this years NFL Draft.

With all that said, I am not sure the Lions are much of a threat in the NFC, let alone their own Division for the 2016 NFL Season.

Ok, now that I have picked apart their Division rivals, let’s look at the Minnesota Vikings who are not exactly the favorite to win the Division in many eyes but certainly must be considered a contender:

FFWIMAGE-VikingsMinnesota Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater is now entering his third year with the Minnesota Vikings after being drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft so this is what many consider to be a make or break year for Teddy. We all know that he has not exactly lit the league on fire with his stats but at the same time he has produced respectable stats considering the receivers he has had to work with in his short-lived career.

Rumor has it that the Vikings are going to run more of a spread offense under the direction of offensive coach Pat Shurmur which means that should open things up for their offense to be more explosive as long as RB Adrian Peterson is able to adapt to playing out of the shotgun which he struggled with early last year and resulted in the QB going back to being under center.

If Shurmur is able to make this work, then good things may come to the Jerrick McKinnon owners just as much as the Bridgewater owners. AP will always get his touches so no need to be concerned there as he has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down and will adapt to any offense thrown his way if given the time.

The Vikings drafted WR Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft to give their offense a serious threat at the wide receiver position and they also acquired some help on the O-line and defense through free agency while not losing any key players on either side of the ball which is why I believe they will not only repeat as the NFC North Division Winners but be a threat in the Conference Playoffs.