Week 3 – Chargers at Vikings
The team will be coming off a road game (and likely a loss) against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, therefore this game will be a good test to see how this squad can respond to adversity. The defense will be tested big time against Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. We will see if the new faces in the secondary can handle a star-studded passing attack. The Chargers’ defense, on the other hand, is a little bit more porous. This game is likely to be a shootout and it will be very telling to see how the team holds up.
Additionally, this game will serve as a homecoming for Eric Kendricks. Vikings fans will be happy to receive him with open arms even as we try to take down his new team.
Week 7 – 49ers at Vikings
Heading into this Week 7 matchup the Vikings will be around 3-3 or 4-2 depending on the game above. The Vikings better be happy with their 2023 schedule because most of their challenging games are going to be fought out on their home turf and could give them a great edge this season. This Week 7 matchup will be crucial to their playoff seeding. In 2022, the 49ers edged the Vikings out for the 2nd seed in the NFC and this matchup in 2023 could have similar implications. The 49ers have been a tough matchup for the Vikings in the last couple of seasons (the Vikings have lost 3 out of the last 4) because the 49ers are strong in the trenches. This game will be a big test for the team’s offensive line against Nick Bosa and company.
If the Vikings could seal a win at home against one of the top contenders in the NFC, it could go a long way in their playoff seeding and in grabbing momentum ahead of five away games over seven matchups
Week 15 – Vikings at Bengals
Here is another heavyweight that the Vikings have the unfortunate task of playing. Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ elite receiving core will be a tough test for Brian Flores and his revamped secondary. This could be another shootout for the Vikings. Something that might be a regular occurrence during the 2023 season considering the offensive side of the ball is the team’s strong suit.
A game like this in the middle of December with the bulk of the regular season in the rear-view mirror will be indicative of how the team will perform the rest of the way. Get blown out in Cincinnati in Week 15? Might as well lose out for a better draft pick. However, if the Vikings can keep it close or even come away with a win, there might be hope for them in the postseason. This game will be a huge determinant of the Vikings’ postseason success or lack thereof.
Weeks 16 & 18 – The Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are currently the favorites to usurp the Vikings as winners of the NFC North in 2023. The Vikings are closely behind, but the way the Lions managed free agency and drafted, they look primed to secure the first-place spot. These two games will be huge if the Vikings want to retain first place in the division. Luckily, the first matchup in Week 16 will be at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and give the Vikings an edge. If the Vikings can win the first matchup, it could make the second one irrelevant depending on both teams’ records.
The Lions will be more than pesky in 2023 and will be serious threats to the Vikings’ path to the playoffs. If the Vikings want a shot at the postseason, they are going to have to win one or both of these matchups.
The Vikings are playing the 19th hardest schedule in the NFL this upcoming season which should bode well for the squad. However, key matchups throughout the season will play a huge role in seeing if the team can perform against true contenders like the Bengals and 49ers. The 2022 version of the Minnesota Vikings collapsed against tough opponents and only squeaked by easier ones. If Minnesota fans are going to be glued to the TV in January, the Vikings are going to have to prove that they can win big games against big teams.
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The 2023 edition of the Minnesota Vikings are facing the tall task of repeating as kings of the NFC North. While the team has traded in veterans for new, younger faces, the rest of the division (except maybe the Packers) have made significant strides toward improving. I like the Vikings’ roster and the direction they are headed in, but I have my doubts that “this year is our year.” The Vikings may just surprise us again this year. There are a few games on the schedule in 2023 that will serve as a good litmus test to see how good the team is and there are a few that are must-wins if they want a trip to the postseason.