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The Vikings should relish the role of underdog

Explanation:  State of the Vikings through week 8
August 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC North in their first year under new head coach Kevin O’Connell. They seem primed for a regression by all possible means, so why not enjoy the underdog role?

The Vikings should relish the role of underdog

There’s no denying that the Minnesota Vikings won games they arguably shouldn’t have last season. While that may carry some weight, the biggest factor is what is represented on the scoreboard when the clock is zero. The Vikings had 13 wins on the season and at times looked like a team that could make a deep postseason run. Now they can be considered unlucky.

Relish Underdog
January 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on before the wild card game against the New York Giants at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, the postseason ended before it even started due to a defensive unit led by Ed Donatelli that failed to improve. Week after week, Minnesota saw offensive performances forced into must-play scenarios where they had to carry the load on defense. Because of that reality, and the lack of an overhaul, the Vikings aren’t being looked down upon this season.

Does that really make sense though?

Every year, the Detroit Lions collect something valuable. they seem to be following the cleveland browns script. Excitement ensues, only to be thwarted by inactivity on the field. The Lions looked strong on offense last year under Dan Campbell, but they fell behind Minnesota on defense. Detroit added significant pieces this offseason, but how everything will click right away remains a mystery.

December 18, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks to pass in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field. Mandatory credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Chicago Bears seem like they should be a better team in 2023, but how well they play largely begins and ends with Justin Fields. He’s grown over the course of the season, but his style has made him injury-prone, and he needs to continue to develop when it comes to aerial decision-making.

Green Bay is somewhat of a wild game because it’s hard to gauge how far they’ll go from Aaron Rodgers. Even if Jordan Love is good, he’s not currently Hall of Fame caliber and the weapons surrounding him are practically non-existent. The Packers don’t have any room to really hang their hat, which could prompt them to look for new answers on a weekly basis.

That brings us back to Minnesota. Dalvin Cook is coming out, and Adam Thielen has already preceded him. These are big names offensively, but their contributions in 2022 were barely felt. Despite being healthy in his first full season, Cook posted career-worst numbers. Thielen couldn’t cover Justin Jefferson and TJ Hockenson didn’t show up until early in the season. With the addition of first-round picks Jordan Addison and Alexander Mathison taking over the bell cow role, the offense should be relatively status quo.

How good will Jordan Addison be?
April 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison poses for a photo on the NFL Draft red carpet before the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

New defensive coordinator Brian Flores should be excited about the opportunity he has. The Vikings have the only defensive position up top, and while they haven’t added anything too noteworthy, there’s room for development and coaching to make an impact. Marcus Davenport will get a shot against Daniel Hunter and Brian Asamoah is now locked in as the starter. Several of the 2023 draft picks should see time, and Lewis Siné will be back on the field.

The biggest detriment to Minnesota’s 2022 run is how ridiculous some of the wins have looked. That said, the team itself shouldn’t be so drastically different in terms of ability, giving O’Connell more opportunity to exercise leadership and character in the locker room. It would be surprising to see the Vikings fall off the table, and they shouldn’t be considered a division favorite just yet.

Every Viking story to 2023.  All of them

Ted Schwertzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities focused on the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He is active Twitter: and writes weekly Twins Daily:. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our professional teams with passion has always felt like such a natural fit.

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