The Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people when they won the NFC North during the 2022 season. It wasn’t so much that they took home the NFC North crown, but how they were able to accomplish the feat.
The Vikings went 13-4 but had a negative point differential on the season, which is where most of the skepticism came from. They were undefeated in one-score games during the regular season, naturally losing a one-score game to the New York Giants in the postseason.
Heading into 2023, many people are expecting the other foot to drop in Minnesota. They said goodbye to multiple veterans, as running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen were both waived. No major additions were made to a leaky defense, as pass rusher Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Cleveland Browns.
Despite that, the Vikings have been predicted to once again come out on top in the NFC North. Over at ESPN, Seth Walder ran simulations for all 285 regular season games and the postseason. Minnesota not only won their division for a second straight season, they took home the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
“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.
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.”
Falling in the NFC Championship Game certainly hurts, but the Vikings could quiet a lot of doubters if the regular season plays out as the simulation did. Winning the NFC North and earning home-field advantage is certainly an impressive feat for any team.
The offense didn’t miss a beat without two long-time stalwarts, as Jordan Addison is a huge upgrade over the current version of Thielen. He and Justin Jefferson could wreak havoc on the league for a long time.
A schematic tweak defensively with Brian Flores leading the way was all the Vikings needed to get things rolling on that side of the ball. When you have an offense as explosive as Minnesota does, even just an average defensive performance will get the job done.