That was quicker than expected.
The 2022 Minnesota Vikings won 13 games and lost four, considered by many fans and pundits as overachievers thanks to an impeccable 11-0 record in one-score games. And because a thin whisker decided so many games, Minnesota was whispered early in the offseason as a 2023 regression candidate.
Vikings Plunge in NFL.com Power Rankings
The court of public opinion flushed that out, beyond the shadow of a doubt on Tuesday, when NFL.com dropped a batch of Power Rankings after one week after the start of free agency. The Vikings fell six spots from No. 10 to No. 16 in the league’s pecking order.
NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus described the plunge, “This has not been an easy start to the league year for the Vikings, who are making difficult decisions as they look to create greater financial flexibility moving forward. Safety Harrison Smith kept his job after agreeing to a pay cut, but the team parted ways with stalwart wideout Adam Thielen (who subsequently signed with the Panthers).”
Most Vikings fans classified the departures of Thielen, mentioned by Hanzus, and defensive running mate Eric Kendricks as roster trims involving aging, expensive veterans. Thielen and Kendricks were scheduled to inflict a combined $35 million cap hit against the Vikings books in 2023, a monetary sum arguably not congruent with their 2022 performance.
Hanzus continued, “Minnesota brought back Alexander Mattison on a two-year deal, the latest evidence suggesting the team could be ready to say goodbye to Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook. As for Kirk Cousins? There hasn’t been any momentum toward an extension, meaning this could be the last year for the quarterback at U.S. Bank Stadium. This feels like transition time in Minneapolis.”
Transition time was announced by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah when he arrived in Minneapolis 14 months ago. He’s preached to high heavens his endorsement of a “competitive rebuild” philosophy, and in that vein, releasing veterans with fat, outdated contract fits the narrative.
But others are evidently surprised by the moves, labeling Minnesota’s dealings a ‘rebuild’ or ‘fire sale.’
Just last week, the Detroit Lions — who sit at No. 11 in the NFL.com Power Rankings — were crowned Kings of the NFC North per Vegas betting odds. The Draft Network’s Jaime Eisner tweeted updated NFC North lines on March 14th, and the Vikings were in a familiar spot glaring up at an unfamiliar foe:
- Lions (+150)
- Vikings (+275)
- Bears (+350)
- Packers (+375)
That’s right, the Lions — not the Green Bay Packers or Vikings — are all the rage at the moment, courtesy of a now-famous Week 18 win over Green Bay at Lambeau Field in 2022, a charismatic head coach, and fancy free-agent signings. Per sportsbooks, a new era of NFC North football is underway, and it’s there for the Lions to pounce.
The Vikings were in this precise spot last year but were battling an old tale — finding ways to dethrone the Packers. For now, with the apparent reputational tumble for Minnesota, plus the Packers impending trade of Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, folks must worry about Detroit.
In fact, only one team fell further in Hanzus’ Power Rankings — the Packers. Matt LaFleur’s bunch plummeted seven ladder rungs from No. 12 to No. 19. Welcome to life sans Rodgers.
Predictable teams filled out the Top 3 — the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cincinnati Bengals. The Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and Arizona Cardinals lived in the basement.
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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).