October 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.
There have been a lot of predictions surrounding the Minnesota Vikings, and whether or not they can win the NFC North or even field a competitive team in 2022. For now, the NFC North crown belongs to the Green Bay Packers, and it will be until a team gets to work to win. Here’s how the Vikings can be that team in 2022.
The draft class plays well
The Minnesota Vikings had a few tendencies when selecting players in the 2022 NFL Draft: versatility, physicality, character. Almost every player they drafted can be placed in multiple positions on the pitch, and they bring a tough style of football and a top character with their game.
This is especially the case for players selected in the secondary where Minnesota will rely on the immediate production of Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. The Vikings were in the bottom five in passing yards allowed in 2021, and those recruits must intervene. to fill in some holes.
Slow start from Green Bay
The Green Bay Packers obviously lost WR Davante Adams this offseason when they traded him to the Las Vegas Raiders. As Adams reunites with former college QB Derek Carr, Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers are stuck cleaning up the mess and trying to figure out where they’ll replace 1,553 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Last year, Green Bay got off to a terrible start, being bombarded by the New Orleans Saints 35-3 in the season opener. This year, Green Bay is set to travel to US Bank Stadium and face the Vikings in an NFC North rivalry game to start the year. In all likelihood, they will rise a lot more for this game than last year.
However, if they have the same kind of struggles, especially without Adams, the Vikings could take an early advantage in the division. When you’re talking about a QB like Aaron Rodgers, every game counts. It sounds silly, but Week 1 is almost a must-play game for the Vikings if they’re going to have a shot at winning the NFC North.
Garrett Bradbury rejuvenated
Garrett Bradbury seemed to take his midseason bench to heart in 2021. He’s played much better throughout the year, especially in pass protection, and even dominated a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive front that has led the league in sacks last season.
The Vikings didn’t pick Bradbury’s fifth-year option this offseason, which means he’ll have to prove to the front office and coaching staff that he’s worth keeping. In response, he’s bulked up in the offseason and seems to recognize the challenge presented to him.
In recent years, pass protection from the interior offensive line has been abysmal and has been a major reason Minnesota has struggled to win games despite having dynamic players all over the court. An improved and motivated Bradbury makes this offensive unit all the more difficult to defend.
Especially on the defensive side of the ball, the Minnesota Vikings rely heavily on the presence of veterans. Their two starting OLBs, Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, played eight games combined during the 2021 regular season. Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks also missed time.
Even on the attacking side of the ball, there have been injury issues. Dalvin Cook could miss two games this year. Irv Smith Jr. is the only proven tight end and will play an important role in Minnesota’s new pass-first offense. Adam Thielen missed four games during the year.
For the Vikings to win the NFC North, they must first and foremost stay relatively healthy. Their stars not only need to be on the pitch, but well enough to make an impact with their game. Kendricks in particular clearly wasn’t himself for much of the 2021 campaign, and while Jordan Hicks could take on a part middle linebacker burden, they’ll need the All-Pro version of Kendricks to show up this season.