You Should Circle 1 Vikings Game on Your Calendar

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Week 1 of 2022 at U.S. Bank Stadium versus the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings won 23-1 to kickoff the Kevin O'Connell Era in Minnesota.

After a successful 2022 season that resulted in a 13-4 record and the division crown, the Vikings are about to enter the 2023 campaign as underdogs in the NFC North. Every media personality apparently fell in love with the Detroit Lions, a team that hasn’t won a division title in three decades.

You Should Circle 1 Vikings Game on Your Calendar

Minnesota’s downfall is expected because the team won all 11 one-possession games in the regular season, which is not repeatable. The improbable run ended in the postseason when the Giants won the game by one score. Like last year, the defensive unit is also a reason for pessimism because of the unknowns. Some unproven players must play significant roles in the defense coordinated by Brian Flores. One game on the schedule could be crucial.

The schedule was released, and the NFC North champions will open the campaign at home against the NFC South champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady, the greatest player of all time, will not be Tampa Bay’s QB for the first time since 2019 when Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions. It will either be Kyle Trask, who was drafted a couple of picks before Kellen Mond in 2021, or Baker Mayfield, a former first-overall pick who hasn’t played at a high level since his promising 2020 season.

Should Circle 1
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

While the season opener is an intriguing game, fans of the purple team are urged to circle a different game, the second one of the season. The Vikings will travel to Philadelphia to take on the reigning NFC champions in a primetime game. Just a year ago, Kevin O’Connell and his team faced the Eagles in Week 2 on a Monday, and they got blown out. It will be a matchup on Thursday this time. According to Garrett Podell from CBSSports, it is the most anticipated Vikings game of the season.

The Vikings got embarrassed last season in prime time in this situation, on the road at the Eagles, losing 24-7. Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions, and Justin Jefferson was held to under 50 yards (six receptions for 48 yards) for the first of only six times. After their deflating opening round home playoff loss against the New York Giants, this prime-time clash with the defending NFC champions presents them the early opportunity to show they can punch above their weight class early in Year 2 under head coach Kevin O’Connell.

Minnesota played an all-around horrible game. The defense couldn’t stop Jalen Hurts and just sat back and watched him tear them apart on short throws to his star receivers or by running the football. Ed Donatell’s defense either wasn’t prepared, or the plan was bad. The unit looked better in the second half, but it is unclear if adjustments were made or if the Eagles took their foot off the gas.

Vikings Face Brutal Challange in 2023
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

A crucial drop by the open-schemed Irv Smith hurt the overall offensive performance. The offensive line couldn’t block Philadephia’s strong pass rush, and Kirk Cousins played poorly. Justin Jefferson getting badly outplayed by Darius Slay didn’t help.

The 2022 Vikes had other forgettable games against the Packers and the Cowboys. They certainly don’t want to also experience a similar blowout early in the 2023 season.

Philadelphia is coming off a lost Super Bowl, and the group is just as good as last year, at least on paper. They added Jalen Carter, who many viewed as the top player in the draft. A squad that is arguably the most complete in the NFL is a great test to determine how good the Vikings are. They should be viewed as a fringe contender if they can hang with the Eagles, no matter if they come out victorious. A blowout loss would confirm that the team won’t win a Super Bowl in 2023.

New Wrinkle for Kirk
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Podell thinks the game is crucial for one Viking: “How Cousins performs in this game could also be a nice data point for the Vikings as he enters a contract year.”

Kirk Cousins is scheduled to become a free agent next offseason, and his future with the team is a mystery. The organization could still decide to keep him on the team, and his level of play in the upcoming season is essential for that decision. While he provides good and reliable play annually, he won’t suddenly become an elite quarterback. It is more likely that a decline will take place at some point, considering that 2023 is his age-35 season. A new contract is more likely if he plays well in 2023 and proves his arm is as good as ever.

One of the usual criticisms is how well he plays against the great teams (in addition to the primetime talker), and Cousins could beat both allegations in this particular game. There isn’t a more arduous task than playing on the road in Philadelphia against the loaded Eagles team.

Vikings players and fans want vengeance for last season’s blowout, and they could get it as early as Week 2.

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