How the Vikings Can Spank All This Lions Enthusiasm

Hockenson Stuff
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) and Detroit Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds (8) talk for a minute after the game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

As of early July, these are the odds for winning the NFC North in 2023:

  • Lions (+140)
  • Vikings (+300)
  • Packers (+350)
  • Bears (+375)

How the Vikings Can Spank All This Lions Enthusiasm

The Minnesota Vikings are evidently chasing the Lions for the first time in forever, an odd twist to the 2023 season. Normally, if Minnesota is looking up at a division rival, it’s the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers.

But no cigar this year, as Detroit sits in the driver’s seat. And if the Vikings want to keep the Lions at bay — Minnesota is the reigning NFC North champ, not Detroit — here’s how they can do it.

The items below are ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important).

4. The Jefferson | Hockenson | Addison | Osborn Show

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Nobody anywhere is worried about the Vikings offense. Folks are anxietal about the defense.

Why is the offense such smooth sailing? Easy — it employs Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Addison, and K.J. Osborn. Quarterback Kirk Cousins should be able to fling the ball over the damn field without impediment, especially if Addison is the real deal right away.

This one is simple: If the Vikings want to hold off the Lions, just specialize in offense, offense, and more offense, which was the implication for the long term when general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted Addison two months ago instead of a defensive player.

The Vikings might just click akin to an aerial juggernaut. That’s how the plan is outfitted on paper.

3. Balanced Playcalling

Makes It Sounds
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings coaches and players have whispered all offseason about running the ball more, or at least running the ball more efficiently.

Minnesota ranked third least per rushing playcall percentage last year. Why does that matter? Why is it bad? Well, it’s fine and dandy that the former-QB head coach, O’Connell, wants to throw all the time. It’s to be expected. But when a team can’t consistently run the football — or doesn’t even try — the time of possession battle favors the opposition.

And that makes a flawed defense worse. Minnesota is welcome to pass the ball more than most teams, but it should seek to change the 30th-in-the-NFL ranking regarding rushing frequency to 17th or so.

No, the Vikings don’t need to ‘establish the run.’ They would’ve kept Mike Zimmer if that were the storefront slogan. Still, running the football to dictate tempo would aid the 2023 Vikings.

2. CB Performance That Comes to Fruition

Could Move Down
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports,

Vikings fans are merely hoping at the moment that last year’s rookie CBs, Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, bust out into starting roles. If neither man does just that, the 2023 campaign will be long — in a bad way — and Minnesota won’t be a serious contender.

Next to Byron Murphy, a free-agent newcomer, one or two of these men at CB must produce: Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, Joejuan Williams, or Mekhi Blackmon.

If some or all of those four corners play well, the Vikings will win the NFC North again.

1. Keep Danielle Hunter

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.

Can you imagine learning about six months ago that the Vikings plan to fix the defense was to trade Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter? Let’s repair this damn thing by trading the two best pass rushers.

Doesn’t seem smart, does it?

That could happen if Adofo-Mensah doesn’t extend Hunter, who is overdue for a new contract.

Hunter’s extension, or lack thereof, can be examined quite succinctly — if Hunter is extended, the Vikings are a reasonable bet to repeat as NFC North victors. Should they trade Hunter (and another big-name EDGE isn’t part of the exchange), Minnesota could be heading toward one of those naughty 8-9 or 9-8 seasons.

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