Before the season started, expectations were low about the 2022 Minnesota Vikings. Folks saw a team that missed the postseason for two consecutive years with a tumultuous offseason.
Head coach Mike Zimmer had to leave the organization after his eight-year employment. He led the team from disastrous years to a respectable franchise with playoff appearances in 2015, 2017, and 2019. His defense was feared, especially between 2015 and 2017.
However, the locker room needed change, and so did the team’s leadership. Multiple alleged feuds certainly didn’t help the franchise to reach its goals. Zimmer’s former boss, and the man who hired him, general manager Rick Spielman, had to leave simultaneously with his coach after more than a decade with the organization. The two reportedly didn’t have the best relationship, which can’t be a good foundation for success.
The Vikings went in a totally different direction and replaced the two experienced veterans with two rookies in their new position. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah became the GM and former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell became the new head coach.
The dynamic duo kept huge parts of the team together, a team that disappointed in the last couple of seasons. Therefore, most people expected something between a .500 record and a wild-card appearance in the playoffs with a quick exit. So far, things have turned out differently, as the Vikings are cruising with a 10-2 record near the top of the league.
It’s only a question of time until the Vikings clinch the NFC North. The Packers and the Lions each have five fewer wins, and the Packers are eliminated from division contention. Detroit has a below-average 5-7 record but won four out of the last five games. The Vikings will face their division rival when they are red hot. Quarterback Jared Goff is playing better than in recent years in Los Angeles or last season in Detroit.
He is protected by a dominant offensive line, which allows D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams to run successfully. Wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of the best receivers in the league. The defense changed and helped the team win games, as opposed to the historically bad start to the season. Various statistics see the Lions’ defense at or close to the top. Their opponents in that stretch helped them inflate the numbers, as they played the Bears, the Jaguars, and the struggling Packers in that span.
If the Vikings can stop the Lions, they will clinch the NFC North. The purple team would be the first team in the league to clinch the division. That first place in the NFC North secures the Vikings a home playoff game in the wild-card round if they can’t find a way to overtake the Eagles in the standings, which is an unlikely scenario at this point. Currently, the Vikings would have to win two more games than the Eagles from now on, a tough task after seeing Philadelphia only lose one of the first 12 matchups.
On the other hand, the Vikings have a two-win lead over the 49ers, who are third in the NFC but lost their starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the remainder of the regular season. If the Vikings keep that second seed, they would not only secure a home game in the first playoff game but also in the divisional round, barring a loss in round one.
The NFC North is not the only division the Vikings dominate — they have won against all four AFC East teams in the 2022 campaign. All four were close nailbiters, with the highlight certainly taking place in Week 10 when the Vikings marched into Buffalo’s home ground and pulled off an overtime win against the Super Bowl favorites.
Against the NFC North and the AFC East combined, the Vikings have a 7-0 record. The next step in their season has to be clinching the NFC North for the first time since 2017.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt