The Vikings were a team that fit the definition of overachievement in 2022. We all know about the 11-1 record in one score games, the walk off wins, the biggest comeback in NFL history, and all the nail biters where they played down to the competition. As a result, many are expecting the team to take a major step back in 2023. I myself agree that we should expect regression from a 13-4 record, but I am here to tell you why there is still plenty of reason to believe this team will contend again next year, and possibly even win a playoff game.
Firstly, I still believe the Vikings are the best team in this division. The Packers are headed into what looks like a rebuild and will likely trade Canton-bound Aaron Rodgers, unless he retires. I actually think Jordan Love has a chance to be pretty good, but I can’t expect him to turn into a star immediately, and the Packers roster still has many holes. The Bears have a very bright future, but again, I think they are still a year or two away from contention. Call me crazy, but I am not a believer in the Detroit Lions. I have seen this team be a dumpster fire my entire life, and won’t believe it until I see it. To me, on paper the Vikings are still the best team in this division.
Second, the NFC as a whole will be significantly weaker than the AFC once again. The Eagles had a great year, but could lose Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to retirement. Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry, CJ Gardner-Johnson, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Isaac Seumalo and Robert Quinn are all free agents, so there is reason for an expectation of regression there. The Buccaneers lost Tom Brady, and there is no team in the NFC South that scares you. The only legitimate teams I believe are better than the Vikings on paper are the 49ers and the Cowboys. Yes, I know the Vikings lost to the Giants in the playoffs but don’t forget the Vikings did beat them just three weeks prior, and I think the Vikings are a better team top to bottom.
Third, they will likely run it back with the same offense. The only starter I do not see returning is Adam Thielen, who will be a cap casualty. The NFL’s best wide receiver and a top five tight end will not be going anywhere, and the Vikings have arguably the best tackle duo in the NFL with Darrisaw and O’Neill. I do believe they will find a way to re-sign Garrett Bradbury, however, center is still a replaceable position. And Dalvin Cook will return.
Fourth, the defense will improve. They say the nice thing about hitting rock bottom is there’s only one way to go – up. The Vikings made a homerun hire with Brian Flores as defensive coordinator, and this defense has more potential than people want to give it credit for. The secondary has plenty of young, promising cornerbacks. Cam Dantzler played very well before injury last year, and Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth showed plenty of promise. My hope is that they bring back Peterson and Shelley, but my realistic expectation is that they bring back Shelley and let Peterson walk. I am a believer in Lewis Cine, and it sounds like he has made great progress from his injury in week 4, and I expect to see a tandem of Lewis Cine and Harrison Smith at safety this fall. I predict Eric Kendricks will be cut or traded, and Brian Asamoah will start and will excel. Za’Darius and Hunter will do great in Flores’ scheme. My only concern is the defensive line, but I hope the rest of the defense can make up for the line and make this defense better.
With all that, I don’t see any significant reasons why we should expect this team to fall off a cliff. This division is still theirs, and the conference is still weak. This remains a stacked roster that can and will contend in 2023.