Minnesota Jumped by Bears and Lions, Oh My!

Popular Vikings Twitter Account Suggests Kevin O'Connell Should Resign
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell reacts after the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings won the NFC North under head coach Kevin O’Connell last year. Despite playing in multiple close games and seeing a solid amount of good fortune, they aren’t considered the favorites entering 2023.

We’re just a handful of days away from the 2023 NFL Draft now, and while rumors swirl surrounding the Vikings intentions, the questions about the current roster have them looking up. Gone are Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen. Harrison Smith is back on a pay cut, while Kirk Cousins remains for now. It’s uncertain how long Dalvin Cook or Danielle Hunter remains in the building, and new defensive coordinator Brian Flores has to fix a new league-worst defense.

Minnesota Jumped by Bears and Lions, Oh My!

All of that adds to a lot of uncertainty for the Minnesota organization. Kevin O’Connell repeating his strong start in year two would be impressive, even more so against the longer odds he faces.

Minnesota Jumped
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

With Aaron Rodgers likely (maybe someday the deal will get done) departing the division, Green Bay looks worse than ever. Although the Chicago Bears made strides with Justin Fields last year, Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions are currently the favorites in the North. Online oddsmaker Bovada has the Motor City Kitties at +140 to win the division. They are followed by Minnesota (+300), Chicago (+325), and eventually Green Bay (+375).

Given how prolific the Lions offense looked at times a season ago, it’s hard to argue with the thought process here. They did employ the league’s worst defense and shared that title with Minnesota at times, but it will be an area of focus for them through the draft. Adding another pass rusher up front alongside Aiden Hutchinson could be huge, and they’ll hopefully get a full year from 1st round wideout Jameson Williams. Jared Goff put together a very solid 2022 campaign, and repeating that could be a tall task, but he has plenty of playmakers around him to make it work.

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) huddle with teammates before a first down against Los Angeles Rams during the first half at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

For Minnesota to hang onto its divisional crown, multiple things will have to break in its favor. Regression should be coming for a team that won so many close games a season ago, and without additional help at wide receiver or cornerback, they could be in for a world of hurt. Ultimately Cousins will want to stamp his time with the Vikings by going out a winner, so he could elevate his play, but that has been a work in progress for years.

It’s odd to see the Lions as a divisional favorite. Their last title came all the way back in 1993. For a franchise that has long been in the doldrums of this collection, it’s somewhat refreshing to see them taking strides forward.

Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on from the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

That said, there truly should be no clear favorite in what could be among football’s worst divisions this year, and while the Lions have the early edge, don’t be shocked if someone else chases them down.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.