The Minnesota Vikings roster will look different heading into the 2023 NFL season. Long-time fan favorite Adam Thielen found a new home with the Carolina Panthers, several defensive starters from last year are not coming back for another season with the Vikings, and most recently, four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook was released.
Not only will the Vikings be different, but the entire NFC North is changing. For the first time since 1992, the Green Bay Packers have a quarterback not named Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers leading the huddle. The Detroit Lions are the odds-on favorites to win the division, and the Chicago Bears hope Justin Fields is their next franchise quarterback.
So where does this leave the Vikings? Will the team make the playoffs? Will Alexander Mattison fill the void at running back? Here are five predictions for the 2023 Minnesota Vikings season.
Another Winning Season
Minnesota is trying to have their first back-to-back double-digit win season since 2008-09. With the eighth most-difficult projected strength of schedule, the Vikings will need to fight tooth and nail to get there.
Six of their opponents made the post-season last year. Minnesota will also play both teams that made the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
When imagining how the 2023 campaign will play out for the Minnesota Vikings, it's easy to imagine a back-and-fourth type of season.
However, despite the challenging schedule, the Vikings will go 10-7, winning the NFC North and clinching the three seed in a top-heavy NFC.
Mattison Shows Out
Dalvin Cook has been "the guy" for the Minnesota Vikings over the last six years. Now it's time to see if 2019 third-round draft pick Alexander Mattison has what it takes to lead the rushing attack.
Mattison only had 74 rushing attempts and 283 rushing yards last season, the lowest tallies of his career, although he did have a career-high five rushing touchdowns. Now that Mattison is transitioning into a starting role expect him to turn some heads. I'm predicting an 800-plus rushing-yard season with eight rushing touchdowns.
Cousins Leads League
Kirk Cousins is back for his sixth season with the Minnesota Vikings, and it could be his best year yet. Another offseason in Kevin O'Connell's system is beneficial for the 34-year-old. It may even end with him leading the NFL in passing touchdowns.
Minnesota's group of wide receivers has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Justin Jefferson is a top NFL player regardless of position and will find a way to create plays. Rookie Jordan Addison led the entire NCAA with 17 receiving touchdowns in 2021 and should translate nicely into the Vikings' offense.
Add K.J. Osborn and T.J. Hockenson (who combined for 11 receiving touchdowns last year) to the team's starters, and Cousins is on his way to career-best passing numbers.
Minnesota Vikings: The NFL's Most Improved Defense
It was painful at times to watch the 2022 Minnesota Vikings defense. The team allowed the second-most yards per game at 388.7 and were the 28th-ranked team in points allowed.
The team addressed this problem early in the offseason by bringing in former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores to lead the Vikings' new-look defense. They also added Dean Lowry, Byron Murphy Jr., and Marcus Davenport in free agency.
The next domino to fall is the contract situation with Danielle Hunter. If Minnesota is able to keep the three-time Pro Bowler on their roster, it will drastically improve their chances of success.
Overall, health is the most important factor to consider on any NFL roster. If the Vikings can keep their defensive starters on the field, they will be the league's most improved defense.
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