Unflattering Prediction Suggests Vikings Miss Playoffs Again

Unflattering Prediction Suggests Vikings Miss Playoffs Again
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackles Olisaemeka Udoh (74) and Brian O'Neill (75). Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The court of public opinion is split on the Minnesota Vikings 2022 prognosis. Some pundits believe the franchise is headed in the right direction after onboarding new leadership while keeping the depth chart unusually similar to 2021. Others have a more unflattering prediction.

For example, back in May, NFL.com released post-draft power rankings, situating the Vikings as the league’s 22nd-best team — an underwhelming placement as Minnesota employs Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Harrison Smith, and Eric Kendricks.

Between May and late July, the picture didn’t crystalize, with NFL experts and fans still all over the board on the 2022 Vikings. Athlon Sports released its Vikings preview this week, projecting Minnesota to finish with a record akin to 2021, meanwhile missing the postseason for a third consecutive season.

Indeed, Athlon predicted about the Vikings, “The Vikings won’t unseat the Packers atop the NFC North. They’ll battle for the seventh playoff seed, finish 8–9 or 9–8 and narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season.”

Manufactured Controversy Aimed at Vikings QB for 2nd Day in a Row
Kirk Cousins

Athlon defended the prediction, “O’Connell will help, but he won’t transform Cousins into Matthew Stafford in one season. The line will continue to struggle inside. The defense is thin and injury-prone up front, counting on two rookies in the secondary, and likely needs a year to master the switch to a 3-4 scheme.”

If one doesn’t believe in the wizardry of O’Connell in Year One, the Athlon forecast checks out. Why? Well, the Vikings are banking on a singular method of repair. That is, the team only needs a new coaching staff that can do what Mike Zimmer could not — whisk a good roster to the playoffs. Minnesota set an NFL record in 2021 for most games decided by eight or fewer points (14 games), so the Vikings brass evidently surmises a new coach can “put the team over the hump.” Perhaps it’ll work; perhaps it won’t.

Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The most indicative aspect of the 2022 Vikings to monitor is the defense. From 2014 to 2019, Zimmer’s defense was king. In his final two seasons, the defense succumbed to serfdom. The evidence is substantiated by defensive EPA/Play, an analytical statistic measuring efficiency.

Vikings Defensive Ranking,
Per EPA/play,
Since 2014:

2014-2019 = 1st
2020-2021= 23rd

If Minnesota can drag that 23rd-in-the-NFL closer to the middle of the pack — or even higher — the chances of finishing 8-9 or 9-8 and missing the playoffs will dip.

Otherwise, Athlon will be vindicated, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will probably plot life after Kirk Cousins.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).