The NFL Did the Vikings a Favor

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Very few could have predicted what’s going to take place in less than two weeks.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will be kicking off the 2023 NFL season. That’s well and good, both predictable and fair. Their opponent? Well, that’s a bit more surprising. Dan Campbell’s Lions get to begin their season with a trip to Arrowhead Stadium. Dropping down to 0-1 is more likely than not for the Lions.

Obviously, anything can happen in a game. Maybe all of the pre-game shenanigans undermine the Chiefs a bit, especially since they’re coming off a Super Bowl. If there’s a bit of a hangover, the Lions have a chance to pull off a major upset in Week 1. Doing so would go a long way in substantiating all of the offseason hype surrounding the formerly toothless Kardiac Kitties.

The NFL did the Vikings a Favor with the Week 1 Schedule

The Minnesota Vikings have never been beholden to what should happen. A team with their proud history of regular season success and Hall of Fame talent shouldn’t have an empty trophy case, but here we are.

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Maybe the upcoming season will be different, but most folks agree that the Vikings are likely heading toward an average-to-above-average season. Top talent remains, yes, but also some troubling concerns about depth at critical positions.

One of the main reasons for optimism, though, rests in the context of their division. Aaron Rodgers — the long-time tormenter — is now in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Bears are continuing their rebuild while the Detroit Lions look to prove they aren’t a joke anymore.

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Prior to Dan Campbell’s arrival, the Lions really struggled. Take a look at the recent records, with Campbell taking over in 2021:

  • 2018: 6-10, 4th in the NFC North
  • 2019: 3-12-1, 4th in the NFC North
  • 2020: 5-11, 4th in the NFC North
  • 2021: 3-13-1, 4th in the NFC North
  • 2022: 9-8, 2nd in the NFC North

Obviously, that final line stands out. Campbell found a way of overcoming the 1-6 start to get to a winning record. Ben Johnson, the offensive coordinator, has done a marvellous job of allowing Jared Goff to look like a strong quarterback. Combining that competence with high-end talent in players like Penei Sewell, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Aidan Hutchinson means Detroit truly does have a chance of winning the division for the first time since 1993.

The NFL, for their part, has been sure to hype up the season’s opening game:

Campbell is very easy to like. His down-to-earth charm is precisely that: charming. Hard not to cheer for him even though he leads the charge for what looks like Minnesota’s main rival in 2023.

Are they ready to take on Kansas City, though? And what of being on the road? Will that be too much for Goff & Friends? Football is a wonderfully unpredictable sport, but getting an opening week win won’t be easy. Patrick Mahomes, in case you haven’t heard, is pretty good at football.

Meanwhile, the Vikings will be tasked with overcoming Baker Mayfield’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. When placed side-by-side — the Chiefs on the road or the Bucs at home — the early moments of the season seem to favor a certain team.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Getting to 1-0 while the Lions drop to 0-1 isn’t reason to take leave of your senses. No parades should be organized. After all, the Lions proved last season they’re more than capable of overcoming a modest start to the year. And the Vikings, of course, have shown repeatedly that no lead is safe in their hands. Yes, they’re a team that has never been bound by what should happen.

Safe to say, though, that the Vikings look to be in a more advantageous position in Week 1. It’s a small detail when we assess the full season, but one that Kevin O’Conell will likely embrace in what should be a competitive division.

Minnesota will get their own chance to try to take down KC, but will have the benefit of doing so in Week 5 and at home. Again, a small advantage over their division rival but one they’ll accept when the margins are thin.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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