Vikings Should Relish Underdog Role

Explained: State of the Vikings thru 8 Weeks
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Last season, the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC North in the first year under new head coach Kevin O’Connell. They seem primed for regression according to every outlet possible, so why not relish the underdog role?

Vikings Should Relish Underdog Role

There is no denying that the Minnesota Vikings won games they undoubtedly should not have last season. While that may carry some weight, the biggest factor is what is represented on the scoreboard when the clock hits zeroes. The Vikings grabbed 13 wins on the season and, at times, looked like a team that could make a deep postseason run. Now they may be considered an underdog.

Relish Underdog
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Unfortunately for Minnesota, the postseason ended before it ever got started because of a defensive unit led by Ed Donatell that failed to get better. Week by week, Minnesota saw offensive performances being forced into mandatory scenarios in which they would need to carry the load for the defense. Because of that reality and the lack of overhaul, the Vikings aren’t glowingly viewed this season.

Does it really make sense, though?

Each year the Detroit Lions assemble something of value; they seem to follow a Cleveland Browns type of script. Hype ensues, only to be shot down by lacking performance on the field. The Lions looked strong on offense last year under Dan Campbell, but they wound up right at the bottom with Minnesota defensively. Detroit did add considerable pieces this offseason, but for everything to immediately click remains a mystery.

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It would appear that the Chicago Bears should be a better team in 2023, but how well they play largely begins and ends with Justin Fields. He trended upwards as the season went on, but his style leaves him prone to injury, and he’ll need to continue development when it comes to the decision-making process through the air.

Green Bay is somewhat of a wild card in that it’s hard to assess just how far they’ll fall moving on from Aaron Rodgers. Even if Jordan Love is good, he is not presently Hall of Fame caliber, and the weapons around him are virtually non-existent. The Packers don’t have any one area to truly hang their hat on, which could lead them to search for new answers weekly.

That brings us back to Minnesota. Dalvin Cook is on his way out, and Adam Thielen already preceded him. Those are big names on offense, but their contributions in 2022 were hardly felt. Despite being healthy for his first full season, Cook put up career-worst numbers. Thielen could not draw coverage away from Justin Jefferson, and T.J. Hockenson didn’t show up until the season had already started. With the addition of first-round pick Jordan Addison and Alexander Mattison grabbing a bell cow role, the offense should be relatively status quo.

Just How Good Will Jordan Addison Be?
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On the defense, new coordinator Brian Flores should be beaming with excitement regarding the opportunity he has. The Vikings only place to go defensively is up, and although they didn’t add anything extremely noteworthy, there is opportunity for development and coaching to make an impact. Marcus Davenport will get a shot opposite Danielle Hunter, and Brian Asamoah is now locked in as a starter. More than a couple of the 2023 draft picks should see time, and Lewis Cine will return to the field.

The greatest detriment to Minnesota’s replication of 2022 is just how fluky some of the victories seemed. That said, the team itself shouldn’t be that drastically different from a capability standpoint, giving O’Connell more opportunity to deploy leadership and character throughout the locker room. It would be surprising to see the Vikings fall off the table, and they shouldn’t be counted out as division favorites just yet, either.

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.