Analyst Is More Optimistic than Most About the 2023 Vikings

camp schedule
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) talk during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The season may have ended a week earlier than expected but the Minnesota Vikings had a magical 2022 campaign. Kevin O’Connell took over as the head coach and lifted the 8-9 organization to a 13-4 record. Players believed in themselves, leading to multiple massive comeback wins, with the games against the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills being particularly memorable. Despite the success, the list of doubters is endless.

Analyst Is More Optimistic than Most About the 2023 Vikings

Analyst Is More Optimistic than Most About the 2023 Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on from the sideline against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Because of the disappointing ending to the season in the playoffs, the 2022 Vikings are viewed by many as a fraudulent team. The negative point differential also didn’t help. Add to that the departures of highly regarded staples of the organization in Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Eric Kendricks – players who were once great but are on the decline – and the result is an expected downfall.

Jordan Dajani from CBS Sports, however, doesn’t buy into that narrative of the bound-to-fail Vikings and likes the odds of them making the playoffs.

Kevin O’Connell went 13-4 in his first year as head coach of the Vikings and won the NFC North. While the Lions are favored to win the division in 2023 and Dalvin Cook is no longer on roster, are we really expecting the Vikings to go from 13-4 to a losing team? I’m not. It’s true Minnesota’s defense was bad last year, but remember the Vikings now have Brian Flores leading that group. Also throw in the fact that the NFC is clearly the weaker conference, and I’ll take the Vikings to make the playoffs whether that’s with a wild-card spot or division title.

Jordan Dajani

The 2022 Vikings overachieved a little, as some fortunate bounces helped them. On the flip side, they may be just really good in clutch moments because O’Connell put an enormous emphasis on being so-called “situational masters.” Practicing these moments helps and the Vikings were proof of that theory. The team that doesn’t make big mistakes in crucial moments wins close games and that’s how the Vikes did it. The envisioned regress to the mean is reasonable but that clutch gene will not completely disappear; it is in the DNA of the head coach and some key players.

1 Primary Position
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores chatting with Tatum Everett on February 15th, 2023. The Vikings hired Flores from the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a linebackers coach for one season.

Defensively, the purple team is still a concerning group, ranking in the bottom five in countless statistics. The departures of Pro Bowl pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith, top lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, aging but still solid cornerback Patrick Peterson, and longtime linebacker Eric Kendricks are worrisome. Dajani and the majority of pundits view the addition of defensive coordinator Brian Flores as more significant than the leaving players.

He will have some intriguing players to work with. Signing Marcus Davenport and Byron Murphy should assist Flores in his task to turn around the defense. It will also be essential to get something out of the 2022 draft class. Brian Asamoah is predicted to start in Kendricks’ spot. Lewis Cine, Akayleb Evans, and Andrew Booth could give the defensive backs group a boost. Danielle Hunter’s status is an important situation to monitor going forward.

Why Has the Vikings Pass Defense Faltered Lately?
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warm up before the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

An improved defensive unit is necessary, as a franchise with that kind of defensive play is (rightfully so) never considered a true contender. Regardless of the defense, the offense is foreseen to keep performing at a high level under O’Connell’s supervision. Running back Dalvin Cook and his big play ability will be missed but the overall running game was inefficient and even the star runner couldn’t change that.

The only other absent player is Adam Thielen who looked like a shadow of himself in 2022. Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Christian Darrisaw are all back, with the infusion of youth coming from first-rounder Jordan Addison.

It is unlikely that the 2023 Vikings will match the win total of the 2022 group but plenty of teams reach the playoffs without winning 13 contests.

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