Vikings Face the League’s 2 Best QBs in 2023

Feb 15, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates toward the fans during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings return to work when training camp kicks off. Rookies will arrive on July 23rd, and the veterans two days later. The regular season will begin on September 10th at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Baker Mayfield under center. Despite the warnings of cornerback Carlton Davis, Mayfield is one of the easier matchups on the docket for defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

Vikings Face the League’s 2 Best QBs in 2023

 2 Best QBs in 2023
Sep 15, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) meets with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) following the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings travel to Philadelphia to take on Super Bowl runner-up Jalen Hurts and his Eagles in Week 2. It is forecasted to be one of the toughest games for the purple team. Last year’s game against the Eagles was a disaster, as the whole team was badly outplayed by a superior group.

Justin Herbert and his Chargers will travel to Minnesota in Week 3 in another problematic contest for the Vikings and their defense. Both teams had a disappointing playoff loss in the wild-card game last season.

Although those are two tough challenges, the Vikings also face the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, according to the latest rankings from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who forms the rankings after surveying players, executives, coaches, and scouts in the NFL.

NFL's Top QBs after Week 1: PFF, DVOA, EPA+CPOE Formula
Sep 12, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports.

Unsurprisingly, Patrick Mahomes is at the top of the list, followed by Joe Burrow. Both can be found on the schedule of the 2023 Vikings. The Vikings haven’t encountered Mahomes in his career, as he was hurt during the matchup in 2019. Mike Zimmer’s group somehow lost to Matt Moore that day, facing the eventual Super Bowl champions.

Joe Burrow’s Bengals managed to beat the Vikings in Week 1 of 2021. Dalvin Cook fumbled in overtime, gifting the Bengals a victory against a heavily favored Vikings squad. Burrow completed 20 of 27 passes for 261 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. It was the passer’s first game back after his rookie campaign was cut short because of a torn ACL.

Mahomes will be in Minnesota in Week 5. That could be too early to see the new scheme run on all cylinders, as it takes time to get used to the new roles and plays. Defensive coordinator Flores is implementing not just a different system but also a different mindset. He wants to attack opponents instead of waiting for them to tear the defense apart. That brings both advantages and disadvantages.

Dec 13, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins (94) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Blitzing Mahomes has proven to be a mistake over the years, as he is just too good at finding the open guy and wiggling out of pressure. Andy Reid’s scheme also appears to have an answer for everything thrown at them. However, if someone can find a way to make life uncomfortable for Mahomes, it is Flores.

In their 2020 matchup, in the second year of his tenure as head coach in Miami, Flores’ defense forced Mahomes to throw 3 interceptions to 2 touchdowns. He racked up 393 passing yards but only 8 rushing yards. The Chiefs led the game 30-10 halfway through the third quarter, but the Dolphins almost made a comeback, ultimately losing the game 33-27.

The new defensive coordinator took over a horrendous defense whose pass defense made bad quarterbacks look like they were Mahomes or Burrow. Mike White and Mac Jones looked like All-Pros when facing the Vikings in 2022.

Who Is the Best Vikings Addition?
Sep 18, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) scores on a 59-yard fumble recovery in overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Unfortunately, the pass defense is still a mystery. Many changes don’t automatically result in upgrades. All cornerbacks except Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth departed, Byron Murphy was signed, and Mekhi Blackmon was drafted.

The pass rush shouldn’t change too much despite the trade of Za’Darius Smith because Marcus Davenport can replace him to some extent. Danielle Hunter’s situation should be monitored.

Minnesota banks on Flores to make the necessary scheme changes rather than significantly upgrading the personnel with limited resources. The Vikings will face Mahomes’ Chiefs in Week 5 and travel to Cincinnati in Week 15 to meet Burrow’s Bengals.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt