Vikings 2nd Fiddle in the Division to ‘Them’

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Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) yells out before the snap during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

For an undetermined period, the Minnesota Vikings will look up at the main contender in the NFC North, and that squad is not called the Green Bay Packers.

It’s the Detroit Lions, according to oddsmakers, and the little-engine-that-could Michigan team is all the rage through one week of free agency.

Vikings 2nd Fiddle in the Division to ‘Them’

That’s right. Dan Campbell’s scrappy upstart team is the one to beat, somehow racing to the top of the NFC North for sportsbooks’ projection supremacy. For now, Vegas has Detroit head of the pack — and Vikings + Chicago Bears.

Vikings 2nd Fiddle
Nov 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) stands in the tunnel before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

There are a couple of items fueling the Lions-or-bust mantra in mid-March. Foremost, here are the NFC odds, as tweeted by The Draft Network‘s Jaime Eisner on Monday:

NFC North

  • Lions (+150)
  • Vikings (+275)
  • Bears (+350)
  • Packers (+375)

NFC East

  • Eagles (+110)
  • Cowboys (+175)
  • Giants (+500)
  • Commanders (+900)

NFC South

  • Saints (+125)
  • Panthers (+280)
  • Falcons (+325)
  • Bucs (+525)

NFC West

  • 49ers (-160)
  • Rams (+350)
  • Seahawks (+400)
  • Cardinals (+1400)
Mar 1, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell during the NFL Scouting Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

One major reason the Lions are total 2023 darlings with five weeks before the 2023 NFL Draft is how they finished 2022. Campbell’s men upended the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 18 when all Green Bay needed was a win to advance into the postseason. Take care of business and you’re in — were the Packers stakes, and Aaron Rogders’ team choked. On the other hand, Detroit was eliminated before the tryst, leaving pride as the only motivational source.

And they’ll be damned if it didn’t work.

Vikings Must Navigate Hot Lions to Clinch North
Dec 4, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams (9) warms up prior to his first game for the Lions coming off injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Lions ousted the Packers one week prior to the playoffs, national eyeballs were all over the game, and two months later, Detroit splashed into the offseason like paladins. The plan to shove Detroit into contendership chats was well underway. Via free agency, the Lions enacted these moves:

  • Added S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
  • Added RB David Montgomery
  • Added CB Cameron Sutton
  • Added CB Emmanuel Moseley
  • Added G Graham Glasgow

Then, in 37 days, the Lions own the draft’s 6th, 18th, 48th, and 55th picks. They can load up. Meanwhile, Campbell seems content with Jared Goff as the QB1, which means those four attractive draft picks can be used on non-QB players, further fortifying the trenches and adding playmakers.

Jan 1, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions right tackle Penei Sewell (58) splashes his face with water during pre-game warmups before their against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings were in this exact situation last year at this juncture on the calendar — with one caveat. Kevin O’Connell’s team was standing allegedly flat-footed with an eight- or nine-game ceiling while staring up at the Packers. This time, it’s the Lions.

And in response to the underwhelming win forecast, the Vikings won 13 games, not eight. Ergo, it’s up to the Lions to operate with the weight of expectations. Minnesota must merely “do what it did last year” and reject sportsbooks’ forecasts.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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