4 Reasons Why 2023 Vikings Can Be Better than 2022

Coach Power
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on from the sideline against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Most NFL pundits and some Minnesota Vikings fans believe the 2023 team is incapable of replicating the 13-4 season of 2022.

4 Reasons Why 2023 Vikings Can Be Better than 2022

The mindset is understandable, as the Vikings were outscored by opponents to the tune of three points while still finishing with 13 wins.

But if the club can retain its winning ways — perhaps notching an 11-6 record and appearing better to the eye test than last year — here’s how that can happen. The items are listed in no particular order.

1. Offensive Continuity

4 Reasons Why 2023
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

In 2015 and 2016, Kirk Cousins had an offensive coordinator named Sean McVay in Washington. McVay took over as the Los Angeles Rams head coach in 2017. The 2015 and 2016 seasons were the last time Cousins had the same offensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons.

Now, Cousins will experience playcaller continuity for the first as a Viking. Perhaps that will translate to success.

Additionally, for the first time in a decade, Minnesota is scheduled to employ the same offensive line fivesome in consecutive seasons. Fans were accustomed to an offensive coordinator and offensive line carousel under Mike Zimmer from 2014 to 2021, but those days are dead.

While the Vikings roster vastly changed, much of the offense remained intact. If that matters — it should — O’Connell and Cousins, plus their buddies Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, could really take off.

2. Brian Flores as the Real Deal

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

Vikings fans immediately identified Brian Flores as their dream defensive coordinator when Ed Donatell was fired, and wouldn’t you know it? The Vikings hired the dream guy.

Interestingly, Flores has never served as a defensive coordinator, but if he’s the real deal, as many believe, maybe he can transform the Vikings defense into prominence in one offseason.

O’Connell and the gang finished 13-4 last year with a defense that surrendered the third-most points in the NFL. Imagine the team’s ceiling if Flores can nudge that ranking to 16th or better.

3. ‘Contract Year Cousins’

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball in the first half against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Kirk Cousins’ back is against the wall. His brand of Vikings has won just one playoff game in five years, and he’s banked mucho dinero in the process.

Now, he’s in a ‘contract year,’ as the Vikings opted not to extend Cousins beyond 2023. The soon-to-be 35-year-old is in put-up-or-shut-up territory for the first in his Vikings tenure. Cousins must prove he can drag Minnesota beyond the playoff’s 1st Round and perhaps even deeper to earn a contract extension into 2024+.

The good news? Athletes in contract years often ball out. Ask Joe Flacco about it.

Maybe Cousins can do the same.

4. The Youth Movement Works

prediction for jordan
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty-third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Were Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Za’Darius Smith, Eric Kendricks, and Patrick Peterson really going to get better in 2023 and beyond?

There’s a decent chance that replacements for those men — Alexander Mattison, Jordan Addison, Marcus Davenport, Brian Asamoah, and Byron Murphy — improve the team’s efficiency. That’s what the Vikings hope, anyway.

Folks spent a lot of time this offseason lamenting the departures of longtime veterans, but perhaps the new faces, peppered with youth, enhance the roster. Many NFL experts merely saw the litany of veteran names hitting the backdoor and screamed, “Rebuilders!”

Yet, what if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild strategy is actually effective?

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).

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