Vikings Insider, The GM’s View
In my years as an NFL exec, I always made preseason predictions on how the wins and losses would unfold, but I kept my prognostications to myself. Now I can make them public, so with players and coaches soon to emerge from vacation mode as training camp and the 2022 season are fast approaching, I thought now would be a good time to give my breakdown of how the 2022 season will go for the Purple.
The big advantage for Minnesota is a schedule with nine home games, only seven true road games, and a neutral site game in London. Of course, major injuries always will be a factor, along with how the Vikings—and their opponents—are playing throughout the season. As Bud Grant taught me early in my career, “It’s not so much who you play as when you play them.” This is a fun exercise for mid-July, and don’t hold me to it, so here we go:
Sept. 11 — Home vs. Green Bay: WIN…I see a close opener in Kevin O’Connell’s head coaching debut, with the energy level among Vikings players, coaches, and fans off the charts at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Packers were clobbered by the Saints 38-3 in their opener last season, but they’ll be more fired up for their division rivals. I just think it will take some time for Aaron Rodgers and his new receiving corps (including second-rounder Christian Watson and vet Sammy Watkins but minus Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling) to get in sync. I look for Za’Darius Smith to lead an inspired defensive effort against his old team and Dalvin Cook to have a good day rushing and receiving.
Sept. 19 — at Philadelphia: LOSS…I think the Vikings should be happy to split these first two games against 2021 playoff teams. Monday night on the road in Philly is a tough test, so I’ll go with the Eagles in a close game in which the Vikings secondary probably will have some trouble with elite wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, along with a fine tight end in Dallas Goedert.
Sept. 25 — Home vs. Detroit: WIN…The Vikings vets remember the disastrous loss in Detroit last December and should handle the improved Lions in this matchup as Justin Jefferson continues his trend of big days vs. Detroit (18 catches for 312 yards in the two games combined last season).
Oct. 2 — vs. New Orleans in London: WIN…It’s a big plus for the Vikings that they face the Saints overseas, not in the Superdome. I see big days for Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith in sacking and forcing turnovers by Jameis Winston, who won’t have former coach Sean Payton to lean on.
Oct. 9 — Home vs. Chicago: WIN…The Bears are in rebuild mode, and QB Justin Fields lacks weapons and protection, plus the defense is not the same without Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, who tormented Kirk Cousins and his O-line in recent years. Cousins also will feel better about facing the Bears after sweeping them last year.
Oct. 16 — at Miami: LOSS…The Dolphins appear to be a team on the rise and made a splashy trade for receiver Tyreek Hill but so much depends on how QB Tua Tagovailoa performs. If the Vikings are off to a good start and with the bye week ahead, this is a possible letdown game. Still, the Vikings hit the bye week at 4-2, which would be a good start if it goes like this through Week 6.
Oct.30 — Home vs. Arizona: WIN…Hunter had a monster day in Arizona last September with three sacks, three tackles-for-loss, and seven tackles, so I expect another big performance from him in chasing down Cards QB Kyler Murray. And it’s a good day for Patrick Peterson to get revenge against his former team. Cook ran for 131 yards last year in a game the Vikings lost 34-33 when Greg Joseph missed a game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired. He won’t miss if he gets a chance this time, or O’Connell will begin having Mike Zimmer-like kicker nightmares.
Nov. 6 — at Washington: WIN…I’m not impressed with Carson Wentz, who has regressed and is now on his third team. The Commanders—can’t get used to that name–have some very good players on defense, such as Jonathan Allen and Chase Young, and a top receiver in Terry McLaurin, but I think this is a very winnable road game for Cousins and his teammates against his former team. It also would be nice to beat embattled Washington owner Dan Snyder.
Nov. 13 — at Buffalo: LOSS…This begins the toughest three-week stretch on the schedule with perhaps the regular season’s most difficult game against one of the AFC favorites. Josh Allen is terrific, and ex-Viking Stefon Diggs will really want to win this game. The Bills D isn’t great, so I look for a high-scoring game if the weather is decent and Buffalo emerges victorious.
Nov. 20 — Home vs. Dallas: LOSS…This is the third straight year these teams have met in Minnesota, with Dallas winning the past two years, including their backup QB Cooper Rush filling in for Dak Prescott last season. Linebacker/Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons was too much for Minnesota to handle last Halloween night with 11 tackles and four tackles-for-loss. Cousins and Cook led the way in a huge 2019 win in Dallas, so who knows when these teams play? I’ll say Dallas wins an exciting late afternoon game.
Nov. 24 — Home vs. New England: WIN…A fun and rare Thanksgiving night game for the Vikings with the advantage to the home Purple, who don’t have to travel on a short week. Facing a Bill Belichick defense always is challenging, but I think O’Connell and Cousins, with their great skill players, will be up to the task.
Dec. 4 — Home vs. New York Jets: WIN…This is the last of three home games in a row and should be a win against the lowly Jets, who perhaps will be improved in QB Zach Wilson’s second season. The mini-bye after the Thanksgiving game will help the Vikings with some extra rest.
Dec. 11 — at Detroit: LOSS…Oh-oh, this December game in Motown went poorly last year as the winless Lions upset the Vikings, a big factor in costing them a wild card spot. If the Vikings are 8-4, as I’m projecting at this juncture, they could be due to get upset, and the Lions’ talent level is clearly on the upswing.
Dec. 17/18 — Home vs. Indianapolis: LOSS…Matt Ryan beat the Vikings with a bad Atlanta team in 2020, and Indy is a solid team that I see winning the AFC South. This is another toss-up game between even teams that will come down to a late drive, and I see Ryan getting the victory.
Dec. 24 — Home vs. New York Giants: WIN…The heat is on Giants QB Daniel Jones to produce a winning season, but the Vikings pass rush will put big-time heat on him with his suspect O-line. The Vikings offense should have a productive day in a winning effort.
Jan. 1 — at Green Bay: LOSS…I think there’s a decent chance the Vikings will still be in the division race until they go to Lambeau Field on New Year’s Day. The Packers’ defense is very good and has added two first-rounders from Georgia’s national champs (LB Quay Walker and DT Devonte Wyatt), who should be well in the mix by Week 17. They’ll be too tough to beat on a frigid day with Rodgers making enough big plays offensively.
Jan. 7-8 — at Chicago: WIN…With more to play for as a wild card spot or a higher playoff seed will likely be on the line, I see the Vikings winning in cold Soldier Field with the defense forcing a couple of key turnovers as they did when the Bears lost three fumbles last December in the Vikings’ win in Chicago.
Final tally: 10-7 and a wild card spot would be a nice step forward in O’Connell’s first season. No predictions yet on what would happen come playoff time.
Other Vikings Observation–Thielen ties for 4th in Celebrity Golf Tourney:
Congrats to Adam Thielen on his fine performance in the American Century Championship last weekend in Lake Tahoe. He had 58 points in the scoring system and was in the hunt until the last couple of holes as part of the final group on Sunday. Tony Romo won for the third time, and the Vikings were well represented with Thielen, Harrison Smith (tied for 27th), and Patrick Peterson (tied for 46th) playing in the event.
Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl