Vikings on Outside Looking In for One Projection

Vikings Not in Top
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2023 Minnesota Vikings aren’t high on folks’ lists to repeat as NFC North championships.

Sportsbooks are among the crowd, pegging Minnesota as a team barreling toward second fiddle to the Detroit Lions.

Vikings on Outside Looking In for One Projection

And while the Vikings are scheduled to finish behind the Lions in the NFC North, some oddsmakers believe the team doesn’t even have the juice to reach the Wildcard Round of the playoffs.

Vikings on Outside
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) celebrates with holder Ryan Wright (14) after kicking a field goal in the first half against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

As of July 10th, these are the postseason odds for the NFC, according to Caesars Sportsbook:

  • 49ers: -460
  • Eagles: -440
  • Cowboys: -210
  • Saints: -180
  • Lions: -170
  • Seahawks: -125
  • Falcons: +115
  • Vikings: +120
  • Giants: +140
  • Packers: +170
  • Bears: +175
  • Panthers: +175
  • Rams: +250
  • Commanders: +280
  • Buccaneers: +400
  • Cardinals: +1000

If you tabulate some basic math there, that’s the Vikings in 8th place, one spot out of the NFC’s seven playoff combatants. Somehow, Caesars foresees Desmond Ridder’s Atlanta Falcons playing meaningful January football over the Vikings.

QB Is Now the Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) prepares for the snap from center Garrett Bradbury (56) 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.

Of course, like any batch of Power Rankings or preseason moneylines, ‘what other people think’ really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the NFL machine. For example, oddsmakers and NFL experts sat in the same boat concerning the Vikings last year, forecasting about eight or nine wins. When September neared, sportsbooks bumped the win total to 9.5, so perhaps that will happen again.

For now, however, the NFL body politic does not perceive Minnesota as a serious contender, and Caesars places the Vikings on the outside looking in for the postseason puzzle. It’s strange territory for a 13-win team.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) reacts after making a tackle against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The key to Minnesota’s prosperity and winning the division — it hasn’t won back-to-back division crowns since 2008 and 2009 — is straightforward. It’s the defense. In 2022, the Vikings defense leaked like the paparazzi, finishing second-to-last in yards allowed and third-worst in points allowed. To fix these terrible statistics, the franchise cut ties with Ed Donatell and hired Brian Flores from the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

If Flores can repair the defense on the fly — or at least make it respectable — the Vikings can probably win the division again. They’ve already proven their knack for winning tight games with a stinky defense.

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores takes over the team’s defense at an introductory press conference on February 15th, 2023, in Eagan, Minnesota.

But if the defense dinks around and remedies nothing, the close-game supremacy is virtually guaranteed to fade. Minnesota set an NFL record in 2022 by tallying an 11-0 win-loss mark in one-score games. While impressive, that won’t occur again in 2023, or if it does, head coach Kevin O’Connell should win Coach of the Year.

Follow the defensive performance; it will define the Vikings 2023 ceiling. At the moment, that ceiling is about eight or nine wins and a playoff-less campaign.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by