New Divisional Balance for 2023 Might Determine Vikings Future

Vikings Place 2 Players on IR, Sign 2 New
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After Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell took the helm one year ago, the plan was to embark upon what they called a “competitive rebuild.” While the transitions brought some big changes, there was still enough talent on the roster for the team to compete and fight for a division as the new regime took hold.

The Vikings finished the season with a 13-4 record winning their first division title since 2017, but it was followed by a Wild Card round loss to the Giants and an early exit from the playoffs.

New Divisional Balance for 2023 Might Determine Vikings Future

Heading into the 2023 season, the “rebuild” portion of the equation appeared to take more of the driver’s seat as familiar names like Adam Thielen, Patrick Peterson, and Dalvin Tomlinson have found new homes throughout the league. Additionally, the working theory is that running back Dalvin Cook and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith could also be on their way out of town over the next week. So by namesake and sheer numbers, the Vikings still have a lot of work to do to field a full competitive roster by the time the season starts.

New Divisional Balance
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But does that mean they also have to abandon the “competitive” side of their “competitive rebuild”? That shouldn’t be the case, given the most recent news to rock the NFL.

In a moment that Vikings fans have been waiting to come to fruition for a VERY long time, reports around the league today are saying that the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets have finally agreed to terms to send Aaron Rodgers to New Jersey and out of the NFC North for good (we think). The move leaves the NFC North wider open and ripe for the picking than it’s been in a long time.

Despite the changes and concerns heading into 2023, the Vikings must remain the favorites to take the division crown this season. Sure, it will look different, but they still have a talented enough roster, led by Kirk Cousins & Justin Jefferson, that they should compete and have a good chance at back-to-back division titles.

Aaron Rodgers Has 1st
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A quick look around the division will showcase a Green Bay Packers team lacking direction with Aaron Rodgers out of the fold, a Chicago Bears team that is still piecing together a competitive roster, and a Detroit Lions squad that is much improved but still needs to prove their consistency to be taken seriously.

On paper, the Vikings schedule could be tough with the Chiefs, 49ers, Bengals, Eagles, and Rams all on the docket, but it remains that they have six total games against a soft division which should pave the way for a late-season push for the playoffs in Minnesota. And that might matter more than we know right now…

Sure, winning divisions is always a good thing, but in the current position of the Vikings, winning back-to-back divisions might help solidify one of the cornerstones of this team’s future. Building a winning culture and attracting free agents that want to win and make playoff runs could be helpful attributes for a team looking to sign star wide receiver Justin Jefferson to a long-term deal.

Jefferson is entering the final season of his rookie contract and is in line to become the highest-paid receiver in the league’s history. To date, though, some of the team’s moves haven’t exactly created a better environment surrounding Jefferson on the field.

There’s still no long-term solution at the quarterback position. The team’s #2 wide receiver has departed and signed with a new team, and defensive improvements haven’t wowed for a team that had a bottom half of the league effort one year ago. Jefferson is entering his prime, and prospects of winning, making the playoffs, and attracting other talented players to town will be significant when determining his future.

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Take advantage of the opportunity that is on the table for you within the NFC North this season. The Bears and Lions might not be far off from competing again. What happens within the division in 2023 could factor greatly into determining the organizational outlook for the Vikings as the competitive balance shifts out of “Title Town.”

This just might be the perfect situation where winning really does mean everything for Kwesi and the Vikings.