You Won’t Believe What ESPN Predicts for the Vikings

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins speaks before a joint practice with the Tennessee Titans in Eagan, Minn., Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

A longstanding fact about the Minnesota Vikings offseason and summer? Oddsmakers and pundits do not — at all — believe the club will replicate their 2022 season when the club won a division title in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s first year.

You Won’t Believe What ESPN Predicts for the Vikings

Sportbooks claim O’Connell’s 2022 success will rivel, and the franchise will thole to the tune of eight or nine wins this season. If one wants to know how the Vikings are viewed as a comparison, the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints have nearly identical win-loss + Super Bowl odds.

What ESPN Predicts
Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during mandatory minicamp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

But the tedium with Minnesota this year, at least according to pundits — Vikings fans are, of course, excited — isn’t one-size-fits-all. Here and there, some experts pop up and choose the purple team to win the division or a playoff game or two.

One such outfit — a giant and self-proclaimed worldwide leader — stunningly predicts the Vikings to snatch the NFC’s No. 1 seed. And that’s ESPN.

Somebody Was Out
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The popular sports site and network used its Football Power Index (FPI) to simulate 20,000 variations of the 2023 NFL season, and somehow, Minnesota rose to the No. 1 seed in its conference. Here’s the simulation synopsis by ESPN’s Seth Walder, “In simulation No. 3,818, ESPN’s FPI played out every game of the 2023 campaign, producing winners and losers, surprise collapses and an exciting race to the Super Bowl. We applied a little creative license to the details, but the results are all from the model. Here’s the 2023 NFL season, before it happens (maybe), including scores from each playoff game.”

And Walder explained the Vikings hypothetical success, “In 2022, the Vikings shocked the league by going 13-4. No one quite bought it due to their negative point differential, especially after losing 31-24 to the Giants at home in the wild-card round. But despite tepid expectations, the Vikings went out and won the NFC North again.”

One Viking Totally
Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) following the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports.

If Minnesota wins the NFC North — or even reaches the postseason as a wildcard — it will be the first time the club has achieved either feat in back-to-back seasons since 2008-2009.

“They had two fewer wins this time but won the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Turns out the combination of quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and coach Kevin O’Connell are on to something — especially with breakout rookie wideout Jordan Addison added in. Plus, the defense took a step forward under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores,” Walder continued.

Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell introduced new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores from the TCO Performance Center on February 15th, 2023. Flores coached for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Vikings in 2023.

The Vikings 2023 hopes probably boil down to how quickly and how much new defensive coordinator Brian Flores can fix a defense with youngsters in real time. If the experiment lags or flat-out stinks, Minnesota is indeed likely trending toward a 9-8 season or so. But if Flores can effectuate change, perhaps dragging the Vikings defense to basic respectability, the NFC field can be wide open.

Walder concluded about the Vikings in the NFC’s driver’s seat, “After earning the bye, the Vikings carried their success into the postseason, beating the Seahawks 23-16 in the divisional round. The unexpected run ended with a 38-31 loss to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, but the Vikings put themselves back on the map as a contender.”

In the simulation, Minnesota finished 11-6, the same record as Philadelphia and Detroit, but the Vikings evidently won tiebreakers.

Minnesota begins to effectuate the ESPN forecast this Sunday at home versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team scheduled to finish 8-9 per ESPN’s model.

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).

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