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2022-23 NFL Preview: Minnesota Vikings

After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, the Vikings are starting with a fresh regime in 2022. Minnesota fired both head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman and brought in the Los Angeles Rams former offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Now the Vikings are poised to rebound and make it back to the playoffs.

2021 Record: 8-9; Missed Playoffs

Minnesota were in a lot of close games last season—14 of the Vikings 17 games were determined by just one possession. Minnesota went 6-8 in those contests including two overtime losses to the Bengals and Ravens. With a fresh feeling in the locker room now the Vikings hope to turn those tough losses into wins.

Key Additions: Jordan Hicks, Za’Darius Smith, Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth

Minnesota has revamped their defense with new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell coming in with his 3-4 defensive scheme by signing Jordan Hicks from the Cardinals and Za’Darius Smith from the rival Green Bay Packers. If Smith can stay healthy, he could have the biggest impact for the Vikings defense. Minnesota also improved their secondary with the draft picks of Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth. Cine should come in as a day 1 starter to pair with Harrison Smith.

Key Departures: Tyler Conklin, Xavier Woods, Anthony Barr

Conklin is now with Jets, leaving more targets for Irv Smith Jr at the Tight End position. Xavier Woods moved on to the Panthers after just one season in Minnesota despite having a career-high 108 tackles last season. Anthony Barr couldn’t stay on the field enough during his time in Minnesota, and the Vikings let him walk in free agency.

Three Players to Watch

Danielle Hunter

Hunter missed the entire 2020 NFL season due to a neck injury, and only played in seven games last season after tearing his pectoral muscle placing Hunter on IR. Hunter established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the league tallying 14.5 sacks both in 2018 and 2019. If Hunter can stay healthy along with the previously mentioned Za’Darius Smith these two can be a force for the Minnesota defense.

Justin Jefferson

In only his third season in the league the young wide receiver out of LSU is already being talked about as one of the top five receivers in the league. It’s a copycat league in the NFL. We all saw the type of year Cooper Kupp had under Kevin O’Connell last season being the triple crown winner. Expect Justin Jefferson to be used in the same way that Kupp was used under this offense.

Kirk Cousins

Cousins signed a one-year $35 million deal back in March to be the starting Quarterback through the 2023 season. All eyes are on Cousins as he’s just .500 as a starter (33-29-1 as the Vikings starter). In the big games, Cousins has struggled as it is well documented. The relationship between Cousins and Mike Zimmer ran its course, now that O’Connell is at the helm Cousins may seem revitalized. The Vikings are talented at all positions, can Cousins finally get over the hump?

Marquee Matchups

September 19 at Eagles

The infamous 2020 NFL Draft comes full circle on Monday Night Football as Minnesota travels to Philadelphia. Minnesota and Philadelphia were in the position to draft Justin Jefferson and it seemed that Philly would go for Jefferson. Instead they would take Jalen Reagor, and Minnesota instantly grabbed Jefferson and the rest is history for now. This will be the first meeting since the NFC Championship Game back in 2018.

October 2 at Saints

The Vikings travel overseas to London to take on the Saints. These two teams have a nice history between each other as well. Kirk Cousins picked up his first and only playoff victory so far against the New Orleans Saints.

Minnesota has been talked about as a sleeper team to make the playoffs, and even as a play to win the NFC North. The NFC is the weaker conference so the division doesn’t have to be the end all be all. The Vikings take on some of the top teams in both the AFC and NFC at home (Cardinals, Cowboys, Patriots, Colts) their ceiling can be that they take over the NFC North due to the Packers losing top talent on both sides of the ball and finish at 11-6. Their floor could be that they don’t compete with the Packers and can’t grab those key wins against NFC opponents and finish 7-10. The season rides on Kirk Cousins, and I think that Minnesota won’t dethrone the Packers in the division, but can make a run for a wild card spot and finish 10-7.

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