The Minnesota Vikings are counting on a totally different coaching staff, culture, and approach to winning with a new leadership regime in 2022. A quick glance at the team’s roster looks mostly interchangeable with last year’s edition, but the franchise believes general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell are the two men needed to solve the recent plunge into mediocrity.
And according to ESPN, Minnesota is closer to a wildcard team than a division winner. ESPN tweeted its Football Power Index probability for the NFC North teams, and the Vikings have a 54% to reach the playoffs but just 30% odds to oust the Green Bay Packers from its division-winning throne.
Via the same ESPN FPI metric, Minnesota owns the NFL’s 13th-best roster, a commendable ranking leaguewide as several pundits forecast the Vikings much lower in the gridiron pecking order. For instance, NFL.com nominated Minnesota as the 22nd-best franchise shortly after the NFL draft.
The Packers have won the division thrice consecutively, keeping the Vikings and Bears at bay since 2019. The Detroit Lions haven’t been a threat since 2014, and the Chicago Bears never really recovered after missing a game-winning field goal in the 2018 playoffs (although they did reach the Nickelodeon playoff game in 2020).
After losing starters Anthony Barr, Tyler Conklin, Michael Pierce, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Vigil, and Xavier Woods, Adofo-Mensah welcomed new free agents Za’Darius Smith, Jordan Hicks, Harrison Phillips, Chandon Sullivan, Jesse Davis, and Chris Reed to re-tool the depth chart. And, of course, that’s in addition to a brand new coaching staff while switching to a 3-4 defense.
In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Vikings made sizable waves by trading with the Lions and Packers — much to fans’ chagrin — onboarding a robust draft class:
- R1: Lewis Cine, S (Georgia)
- R2: Andrew Booth Jr., CB (Clemson)
- R2: Ed Ingram, G (LSU)
- R3: Brian Asamoah, LB (Oklahoma)
- R4: Akayleb Evans, CB (Missouri)
- R5: Esezi Otomewo, DE (Minnesota)
- R5: Ty Chandler, RB (North Carolina)
- R6: Vederian Lowe, OT (Illinois)
- R6: Jalen Nailor, WR (Michigan State)
- R7: Nick Muse, TE (South Carolina)
Cine, Booth, and Ingram are all in the mix to start at Vikings training camp.
Minnesota has won the NFC North just twice in the last 12 years — 2015 and 2017.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).