ESPN Hits Vikings with the Naughty Word

Vikings Over-Under for Win Total Very On-Brand
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Starting in the middle of the Minnesota Vikings 2022 campaign and bleeding into the summer or now NFL pundits and Vegas sportsbooks have believed the purple team was a mirage.

Experts simply can’t reconcile Minnesota’s 13-4 record from 2022 with its -3 point differential. Opponents outscored the Vikings by three points last year. Plain and simple.

ESPN Hits Vikings with the Naughty Word

ESPN continued the trend of Vikings-themed skepticism this week, nominating Kevin O’Connell’s club in its ‘Four Teams that Will Regressarticle, with the NFL season just 15 days away.

Vikings with the Naughty
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The Vikings can refute the familiar fraudulent narrative in September but did themselves no favor by losing right away in the postseason to the New York Giants seven months ago. That loss served as vindication for pundits and NFL fans who thought the Vikings smelled fishy, and Minnesota did nothing this offseason to change minds.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell explained his regression opinion about the Vikings, “The Vikings haven’t conducted their business this offseason as if they were one of the best teams, which is no surprise given that they have one of the more analytically inclined front offices in the league. They’ve gotten younger, moving on from veterans Patrick Peterson, Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen, while taking shots on the upside of free agents Byron Murphy and Marcus Davenport.”

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Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has very publicly outlined his ‘competitive rebuild’ philosophy, so cutting ties with Thielen, Cook, etc., is no surprise to folks who follow the team closely.

“They decided against an extension for 35-year-old quarterback Kirk Cousins, whose latest salary restructure voids after the 2023 season. He was 28-27-2 in one-score games before last season. If the Vikings disappoint, this will likely be Cousins’ last season in purple and gold. If coach Kevin O’Connell has somehow unlocked a formula for winning close games with Cousins, though, they would have to give their signal-caller a new deal, right?” Barnwell continued.

After a Frenzy
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Minnesota also has a trickier schedule in 2023 than 2022, on deck to face Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, and Justin Herbert, among others, in Cousins’ sixth season at the helm.

Barnwell added, “The best I can do is look at the 12 prior teams that had outperformed their Pythagorean expectation by at least three wins in a given season to see whether they hold any sort of hope for the Vikings. The first signs aren’t positive. Those teams went 82-14 (.854) in one-score games during their outlier season. During the following campaign? Those same teams went 46-43 (.517). Gulp.”

Vikings Fan Ignite over
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The Vikings blueprint to avoid obvious regression is pretty clear — a) They’re banking on defensive improvement via Brian Flores’ addition and Ed Donatell’s subtraction b) Young players must slide into the positions previously held by veterans and perform admirably.

No matter what, replicating a 13-4 season is a tall order. But perhaps finishing 11-6 or so while winning another NFC North title would punch back at the ‘regression’ dialogue so everpresent in the last seven months.

The Vikings begin the regular season a week from Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Barnwell also tabbed the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Steelers with the regression label.


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 OverTheCap.com.

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