The recent departure of Ed Donatell gives optimism to Viking fans for next season. Winning 13 games with arguably the worst defense in the league is impressive. But assuming the Vikings hire a great defensive coordinator who can at least produce an average defense, how are the Vikings going to look next year with a juggernaut of a schedule?
As always, they will host their NFC North rivals, and also travel to their respective places, and no matter the record, divisional games on the road are tougher than anticipated. They face an NFC South division that struggled this year but also faces the AFC West, which is arguably the best division in the league. They will thankfully host the Chiefs and Chargers but will have to go to Vegas and a rough environment in Denver. Since they won the division, they will have to face the number one seeds of the NFC East, NFC West, and the AFC North, which are the Eagles, 49ers, and Bengals. On top of that, the Vikings are going against all four teams who are in the conference championships currently. They will host the Chiefs and the Niners and will have to go on the road against the Eagles and the Bengals.
Facing six playoff teams, and a surging Lions team, the Vikings will have their chance to make a statement next year if they can win their division again. Considering the Vikings were in 11 one-possession games, the NFL will probably put them on at least three to four primetime games next season. A lot of eyes will be on the Vikings, especially since their defense was one of the worst in the league this season, and are expected to be better and more polished by next season. Kirk Cousins should theoretically be more efficient next season, as he will have the same play-caller next year, which will be a first since his tenure as a Viking. All-Pro Justin Jefferson will most likely replicate his best season as a Viking. The offense will be running the same system and play caller for the first time since 2016. Kevin O’Connell’s pass-first system should become engraved in the offense’s brain, and should take a step forward to becoming one of the best offenses in the league.
So how will the Vikings do next season? Can they win situationally big games? The Vikings will most likely make the playoffs again next season, but winning the division may be a toss-up between them and Detroit. Detroit has a lot of momentum heading into the next season and is expected to make the playoffs as well. The Vikings and Lions rivalry may start becoming a new favorite rivalry, considering their last four games have been close and both teams are 2-2 against each other. However, the Vikings will probably take one mini-step back, as they do have a tough schedule and their defense may still not be up to par as they will have yet another defensive play caller. Time is running out for the Vikings to win the Superbowl, as a lot of veterans on the defensive side are slowly losing their prime, and it’s only a matter of time before the defense is filled with new faces.