Two Batches of Rankings Plop Vikings in Middling Spot

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL oddsmakers and pundits do not believe not for one minute that the 2023 Minnesota Vikings will accomplish the feats of the 2022 Minnesota Vikings.

Those voices maintain Minnesota wildly overachieved in 2022 and is destined to scrounge only eight or nine wins during Kevin O’Connell’s second season.

Two Batches of Rankings Plop Vikings in Middling Spot

If one thought the Vikings unforeseen 13-4 record from a season ago bought the franchise any good faith, that hypothesis was incorrect.

Two Batches of Rankings
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell at 2023 mandatory minicamp in Eagan. The Vikings won 13 games in O’Connell’s first season as head coach. He previously won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams as offensive coordinator in 2021.

Aside from sportsbooks’ 8.5 win forecast, there’s more evidence, too, that the masses surmise Minnesota will live in the middle of the pack this season. ESPN and The 33rd Team revealed preseason power rankings this week, and Minnesota did the Spider-man meme, residing at No. 15 in both publications.

Sandwiched between the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 14) and New York Giants (No. 16), ESPN’s Kevin Seifert explained the ranking, “Cousins is in a contract year for the fourth time in his career but the first since he signed with the Vikings in 2018. The Vikings decided against extending his current deal in March. There is no obvious heir on the roster, but at the very least, 35-year-old Cousins will have to ward off any hints of a physical decline to secure a new deal.”

Cousins has quarterbacked the Vikings for five years, and there was real mystery in February and March if the team would keep or trade the passer.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins speaks before a joint practice with the Tennessee Titans in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

“On the other hand, a huge season could propel him to a bigger payday in free agency next offseason,” Seifert added about Cousins’ future.

A couple of days later, The 33rd Team’s Ryan Reynolds precisely agreed with the ESPN ranking at No. 15 and opined, “The Minnesota Vikings are one of the most interesting teams in the league. On the positive side, Kirk Cousins’ offense looks like a top-10 unit with some top-five upside. Adding new defensive coordinator Brian Flores should help what was a disastrous Vikings defense last season.”

Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

The Vikings defense had an odd tendency in 2022 to relax in Quarters 1 through 3 and then arrive in the 4th Quarter to close out games.

“On the other side of things, Minnesota went 11-0 in one-score games last season. That makes them the most obvious negative regression candidate in recent memory. Expect Minnesota to be a competitive team but not to reach its 13-win-type ceiling from last year,” Reynolds concluded.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

And this is about where the Vikings have lived in various sets of power rankings since free agency, trapped around 14th to 19th or so, per league opinion.

Thankfully for their sake, the regular season kicks off in 16 days, and the team can dispel the “mediocre” narrative with September wins.

The Vikings haven’t reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 2008-2009.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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