Can the Minnesota Vikings Win the NFC North?

by Seth Diewold · Prop Plays

Minnesota Vikings: Win Total- 9 (u-115) (o-105) +275 to win the Division

Do the Minnesota Vikings have what it takes to dethrone Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers this year? The Vikings certainly have a talented roster, but as with all rosters a lot depends on the play of the quarterback, and no quarterback has been maligned as much by their respective fan base as Kirk Cousins. However, Cousins is better than Vikings fans give him credit for, and there may be some value in betting on the Vikings, in multiple facets, in 2022. Let’s take an in depth look at the 2022 Minnesota Vikings.

Talent

Quarterback

With every NFL franchise, the talent discussion starts with the quarterback position. Many have bemoaned the constant existence of Kirk Cousins behind center for the Minnesota Vikings especially Vikings fans. Cousins is seen as the quarterback who is just good enough not to win a Super Bowl or advance in the playoffs. However, there is a reason the Vikings keep bringing him back, and the answer isn’t something fans want to hear. There isn’t a better option out there.

Kirk Cousins Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

One statistic that stood out when analyzing Cousins was his True Passer Rating. Cousins ranked No. 6 in True Passer Rating amongst qualified quarterbacks which accounts for throw aways and dropped passes. This statistic paints a more accurate picture of a quarterback’s performance. It may not be popular to say, but I’ll write it here. Kirk Cousins is a good NFL quarterback.

As of this writing, I don’t think it’s debatable that Cousins is the second-best quarterback in the NFC North. While Justin Fields‘ is exciting and possesses more upside, he hasn’t accomplished what Cousins has over the course of a full NFL season. There is also some discussion this Vikings offensive line could be the best offensive line Cousin’s has ever played behind during his tenure in Minnesota. We will talk more about the offensive line later, but if there is truth to this statement, we know Cousins excels in a clean pocket. This combined with his excellent skill players makes Cousins a solid quarterback entering the 2022 season.

Offense

Let’s start with the fun part. The skill players the Vikings have are the best in the division. They certainly have the best corps of pass catchers with Justin Jefferson leading the way. Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, and Irv Smith set up to serve in complementary roles.

Justin Jefferson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The Vikings have also upgraded their offensive line this offseason by drafting Ed Ingram in the second round of the NFL Draft. Ingram projects to come in and fill a need at right guard. This means the Vikings offensive line consists entirely of first and second round rookie picks led by Christian Darrisaw who was a first-round selection last year. While this unit might not be amongst the NFL’s elite, they certainly won’t be at the bottom of the NFL either. This should be good enough to give Cousins some time to locate receivers down the field.

This offense is going to be good in 2022. Cousins is a solid quarterback who has thrown for over 4,000 yards in back to back seasons. Jefferson could have an even better year in 2022 than he had in 2021. Dalvin Cook is still a quality running back who will likely rush for over 1,000 yards. The Vikings are going to be able to score points, but the question is can they stop NFL teams on defense?

Defense

Last season, the Vikings defense was confusing. They ranked No. 16 in defense according to DVOA. They ranked No. 2 in the NFL in sacks, but they ranked No. 30 in first downs allowed. The Vikings ranked No. 10 in interceptions, but they ranked No. 28 in passing yards allowed. At the end of the day, the Vikings ranked No. 24 in points allowed and No. 26 in yards per play allowed. This put Minnesota in the bottom half of the league in both of those categories.

The Vikings did address arguably their biggest area of need in the draft. Minnesota drafted Lewis Cine, a safety, and Andrew Booth, a cornerback, in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. In fact five of their first six draft picks in 2022 were spent on the defensive side of the ball. This should lead to improvement.

The Minnesota Vikings also return their top three sack getters from last year in D.J. Wonnum, Daniel Hunter, and Armon Watts. They also added Za’Darius Smith, from Green Bay, in free agency which helped them bolster their defense while also taking a piece away from their biggest division rival. The Vikings also signed Jordan Hicks, a linebacker, away from Arizona to bolster their linebacking corps. He likely figures to replace the departing Anthony Barr. All in all, this defense looks to be trending up for the 2022 season.

Schedule

According to CBS sports, the Vikings will face the No. 20 most difficult schedule according to win percentage last season. They also play in a fairly weak division minus the Packers, but division games are always tough no matter the opponent. When factoring the strength of schedule, I am usually liberal when handing out wins and loses. Let’s break down their home and away opponents:

HOME: Packers (Week 1), Lions (Week 3), Bears (Week 5), Cardinals (Week 8 after their bye), Cowboys (Week 11), Patriots (Week 12), Jets (Week 13), Colts (Week 15), Giants (Week 16)

AWAY: Eagles (Week 2), Saints (Week 4), Dolphins (Week 6), Commanders (Week 9), Bills (Week 10), Lions (Week 14), Packers (Week 17), Bears (Week 18)

I see a lot of winnable games on the schedule, but let’s give an honest assessment of what the Vikings’ season will look like in 2022. The Packers present a challenge in Week 1, no doubt, but the Vikings are going to be playing at home in a charged up U.S. Bank stadium. I’m going to project the Vikings to win. They are projected underdogs according to Caesar’s sportsbook, so perhaps bet that now if you like the Vikings. I also see the Vikings winning home games against the Lions, Bears, Cardinals (after their bye week), Jets, Colts, and Giants. That’s a grand total of seven home wins.

This means we only need to win two games on the road in order to push, and while I see quite a few winnable games on the road as well, winning on the road is going to be tough especially for a new coach. Also, Week 18 games are always tricky, but I’m guessing the Vikings are going to have something to play for in the final week of the season. Let’s say the Vikings beat the Saints, the Commanders, and either the Lions or the Bears on the road. That will get us to 10 wins. That is achievable.

If we go by quarterback play alone, the Vikings will play 11 games out of their 17 where they have the better quarterback on their side of the football. The biggest question mark, of course, is Justin Fields. As stated earlier in the article, Fields could be good, but the Bears offense leaves a lot to be desired. It’s safe to say Fields should be ranked behind Cousins for the sake of our 2022 win total discussion.

Conclusion

I think the perfect line for the Vikings would be 9.5 (-110) either way. However, the line is 9 with a slight nudge to the over at (-115). I’ll take over nine wins. Cousins gets disrespected by the national media and the casual fan, but he will cash in a ticket for anyone willing to take this bet by the end of the season. The Vikings have also improved their roster from last season, and their biggest threat to a division crown has also been weakened with Davante Adams departure.

While I’m not as sold on the Vikings winning the NFC North, I think there is currently value there. At +275, I think I’d put a small bet on the Vikings purely because this number should be closer to +250 or +225. Take advantage of the public’s soreness towards Kirk Cousins and take the value even if it feels wrong to do so.