Worst Case Scenario Season – Click Here
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A new season is quickly approaching and with that comes new expectations, new hopes, and (for Vikings fans) the ever-elusive Lombardi Trophy. Much has been said about the Vikings and it all started last offseason with the hiring of new Head Coach/General Manager duo Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, respectively. Last season, the Vikings were consistently a headline team, as their one-possession win total skyrocketed them into weekly debate and discussion. Was the team resilient and a group that found ways to win? Were they frauds and did the 2022 Vikings get lucky break after lucky break? Truly, it is most likely a mix of both, but it was all for not as Minnesota’s Cinderella season came crashing down in the first round of the playoffs as Michael Vic.. Daniel Jones carved up the Vikings defense en route to a Wildcard Weekend loss that still leaves a bitter taste in place of the team’s first Super Bowl win that fans desired. Though many predicted the upset, it was easy to see that the 2022 team had a variety of flaws. An -87 point differential in the first three quarters of games doesn’t inspire hope and would not, usually, inspire wins. For all the good the Vikings’ offense and Justin Jefferson did, it was plagued by a horrendous defense.
However, no team stumbles into a 13-4 record. That is earned and regardless of how much of it was resilience or luck, the Vikings electric season was one to hang their hat on. They topped the Bills in the game of the year, pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history, and got O’Connell a share of the most wins by a first-year head coach (tied with Harbaugh and Mariucci) while also topping franchise legend Dennis Green’s previous record of 12 wins. More importantly, their culture changed and gone were the days of fear mongering and an iron-fist ruled locker room with the emergence of O’Connell, a player’s coach. Last year was fun and the start of something new. That said, Minnesota is going to win the Super Bowl in 2023. Yes, their Cinderella story continues, and the path is clear.
Looking ahead, what is this best-case scenario for the Minnesota Vikings in 2023. Though there are many routes, picking up where the team left off is a great start. Retaining the same offensive play caller and scheme provides Cousins continuity and a variety of playmakers (Jefferson, Hockenson, Addison, Mattison, Osborn..Osbornson… Dang patterns) provides enthusiasm. In a perfect season, this offense skyrockets to the top of the league behind the arm of Kirk Cousins. Putting up MVP level numbers, Minnesota sees Cousins break Daunte Culpepper’s single season passing record and passing touchdown record of 4,717 and 39 respectively. With this strong play of this air raid offense, Minnesota also sees Jefferson break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record and top 2,000 yards to become the first player in league history to do so while also acquiring the illustrious Triple Crown award. Supporting cast Hockenson and Addison also top 1,000 yards while new workhorse running back Alexander Mattison puts up 1,200 plus yards on the ground. The offensive line also shows continuity as second-year man Ed Ingram and embattled center Garrett Bradbury’s play improve to help anchor an already above average unit. The offense churns and there are games that are pure shootouts (Chargers, Chiefs, Bengals, Saints).
On the defensive side, Minnesota sees a complete turn-around from 2022, with new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores turning the Vikings biggest weakness into one of their biggest strengths. The front seven sees a healthy Davenport and star Danielle Hunter pair up to dominate opposing quarterbacks while also slowing down the run behind Hicks and Asamoah II. The retooled secondary flies around the field with draftees Mekhi Blackmon, Akalyeb Evans, and Andrew Booth Jr all getting solid playing time alongside big-ticket free agent Byron Murphy Jr to create a (budget) no-fly zone. Cine returns from injury and pairs with future Hall-of-Famer Harrison Smith (along with Bynum, Metellus, and Ward) to create the best safety tandem and room in the league that confuses defenses with their mix of ground and air support. With the offense putting up unreal points, the defense doesn’t have to play perfect and even in this fairy tale, that’s a tall task to drive up from last year. However, the defense shows immense improvement and plays smart, where they fluster opposing offenses who are just trying to catch up and capitalize on their mistakes. Also, no kick is missed, only blocked. Don’t worry about kicking, ever.. Not in this scenario. Minnesota roots out a handful of teams (Green Bay, Las Vegas, Chicago) to inspire some defensive mojo going into the playoffs.
So where does this leave the Vikings? Minnesota in their storybook season posts a 14-3 record, with losses to Philadelphia, Detroit, and Chicago (yes, the Green Bay sweep is included). With the NFC’s #1 seed locked up, they just have to play two games, nabbing revenge against the New York Giants in the divisional and righting the ship against Philadelphia in the NFC Championship. To finish out the perfect season, Minnesota faces the Aaron Rodgers led Jets, and in the final seconds of a one-possession game, kicker Greg Joseph lines up for a 51-yard field goal (set up by a monster catch by Justin Jefferson). As time expires, the kick splits the uprights and Minnesota tops the New York Jets 31-30 to acquire their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but this would be the storybook season Minnesota can hope for in 2023. Can the Vikings hoist the Lombardi trophy come next February? Absolutely, but it will take some great play, some lucky breaks, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. This team has talent but, in this story, it ends on the highest of notes with the franchise’s first Super Bowl win and a Lombardi trophy in hand.