As is usually the case with new coaching staffs, there is a lot of excitement surrounding Kevin O’Connell and his hires; and why shouldn’t there be? O’Connell is coming off of a Super Bowl victory, albeit in a lesser role as offensive coordinator. Ed Donatell (Bears, 2015-2018), Mike Smith (Packers, 2019-2021) and Mike Pettine (Packers 2018-2020) have contributed to defenses that have vexed the Vikings and been above average in recent years.
A new regime also brings some skepticism. O’Connell is still a first-time Head Coach and will be calling the offensive plays , which he did not do in his time under Sean McVay. New schemes are being implemented on each side of the ball and there could be some bumps along the way. All things considered, I seriously like this team’s outlook for the upcoming season. I went through the 2022 schedule to see just how many games I think they can win.
Vikings 2022 Schedule
Week 1 vs. Green Bay
Result: WIN (1-0)
I like the matchup here. It will be a new-look Vikings offense and a new-look Vikings defense to throw at a team that’s become very familiar with Mike ZImmer’s teams. I think the Vikings secondary sticking to middling Green Bay pass-catchers long enough to really pressure Rodgers will ultimately tip the scales.
Argument Against: If the Aaron Rodgers factor isn’t enough to curtail your confidence, Green Bay’s defense is a top-five unit on paper and in Week 1 they’ll probably be as healthy as they will be all year.
Week 2 @ Philadelphia
Result: LOSS (1-1)
Philadelphia’s offensive line can be so dominant at times and Jalen Hurts contributions to the run game may be tough for Minnesota to overcome.
Argument Against: Darius Slay is great but I could see Minnesota absolutely taking the top off of the Philly secondary, particularly over the middle of the field against the dubitable safety duo of Anthony Harris and K’Von Wallace.
Week 3 vs. Detroit
Result: WIN (2-1)
The Minnesota locker room has to be eager to avenge last season’s embarrassing loss. Detroit’s roster has improved and I think they’ll have a solid running game but Minnesota has the superior roster.
Argument Against: We’ve seen it happen. I don’t see Kevin O’Connell taking his foot off the gas if his team is ahead early but Detroit will be a feisty team that could be dangerous in close games.
Week 4 @ New Orleans
Result: LOSS (2-2)
No Sean Payton. Aimless Jameis at quarterback. A couple of things that can make one forget how dominant the New Orleans defense can be. One of the best secondaries in the league that can give a lot of different looks on the back end could fluster Kirk Cousins and give Vikings receivers trouble.
Argument Against: A mistake-prone Jameis Winston will return to start behind an offensive line that lost one of the best pass protectors in the league, Terron Armstead, in free agency. There is a good chance that this game is won on the defensive side of the ball.
Week 5 vs. Chicago
Result: WIN (3-2)
The roster is abhorrent. There should be uproar if the Bears come into U.S. Bank Stadium and win this game. We should all expect the Vikings to dominate in every facet.
Argument Against: Alright fine, Justin Fields escapes the pocket one too many times and finds Mooney or another underwhelming receiver deep down the field and maybe Robert Quinn has a day if he hasn’t been traded yet.
Week 6 @ Miami
Result: WIN (4-2)
I thought about this one for a while and went back and forth. The Vikings should really be able to make hay in the run game and expose the heavy-blitz, heavy-man coverage scheme of Miami via play action and quick passes. I do not trust Tua to play mistake-free football behind a shaky o-line in the face of what will be a much improved Minnesota pass-rush.
Argument Against: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will be the two fastest men on the field when the Dolphins are on offense and this game could break open in an instant on a missed tackle or blown assignment.
Week 8 vs Arizona
Result: WIN (5-2)
Coming off of a bye against a team with some predominant roster holes (cornerback, edge rusher, offensive tackle) should see O’Connell and company enter the week with an effective gameplan.
Argument Against: There are still some game-changers on this Arizona offense. Deandre Hopkins will be back from his 6-week suspension and the Kyler Murray-to-Hopkins connection can be lethal when they get going,
Week 9 @ Washington
Result: WIN (6-2)
Likely another defensive bout, I expect Carson Wentz and the Commanders’ offense to make more mistakes than Kirk and the Vikings. If the o-line gives Cousins ample time, he will be able to make enough plays against the average secondary of his former team to get the win.
Argument Against: If Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen are all healthy the Washington pass-rush will be nearly impossible to deal with.
Week 10 @ Buffalo
Result: LOSS (6-3)
The Vikings are not there yet. Buffalo is an elite team in this league boasting arguably the best secondary and a top 5 QB/WR duo in Allen and Diggs. A win is not out of the question but I expect Josh Allen to be too much for Minnesota to handle.
Argument Against: Buffalo’s best run-stopping defensive tackle from last season is now a Minnesota Viking (Harrison Phillips) and O’Connell’s mid-zone running scheme will attack the A and B gaps more than we’ve seen from the wide zone in seasons past.
Week 11 vs. Cowboys
Result: LOSS (6-4)
I can see this game being a nailbiter with just a slight edge to Dallas. The rosters are pretty evenly matched but Dan Quinn (Cowboys DC) has a game-wrecker named Micah Parsons that he uses like a queen on a chess board.
Argument Against: SImilarly to Philadelphia, Dallas has decent cornerback play but an underwhelming safety duo. A couple of deep shots could easily swing the game in Minnesota’s favor.
Week 12 vs. New England
Result: WIN (7-4)
New England just doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Vikings. Not to mention, the Patriots’ defense wants to play a lot of man coverage which won’t bode well for them against Jefferson and Thielen, especially without shutdown corner JC Jackson (left in FA).
Argument Against: New England’s bruising offensive line and the poise of Mac Jones under center could earn them a methodical, boring victory if the Vikings’ offense is kept in check.
Week 13 vs New York Jets
Result: WIN (8-4)
I think the Jets will be very competitive this season but given the talent discrepency, they’d need almost everything to go right for them to overcome the Purple.
Argument Against: Zach Wilson is another quarterback who could really uncork a bomb or two and change the complexion of the game. If that happens and it’s coupled with a lot of pressure from their front seven, they have a shot.
Week 14 @ Detroit
Result: WIN (9-4)
A much closer game than the first, Detroit is probably still fighting for a wild card spot. The Vikings, still vying for a division crown,
Argument Against: Dan Campbell gets the Lions extremely fired up and they want it more than the Vikings do.
Week 15 vs. Indianapolis
Result: LOSS (9-5)
Not a great matchup for the Vikings. The Colts boast an extremely smart quarterback feeding the (arguably) best running back in the game, with one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Argument Against: Another case where the real mismatch that favors the Vikings is Vikings receivers versus Colts defensive backs.
Week 16 vs. New York Giants
Result: WIN (10-5)
The Giants new coaching staff is extremely promising and there should be some optimism surrounding the G-Men, but this is another secondary that will be completely outmatched by Minnesota’s talent. I like the Vikings’ odds of running away with this game early.
Argument Against: Expect from Brian Daboll an offensive playbook that will maximize Daniel Jones’ strengths. Like Josh Allen he is a big-bodied quarterback who can make plays with his feet and throw off-platform and Daboll knows how to get the most out of that skill set.
Week 17 @ Green Bay
Result: LOSS (10-6)
A frigid game in Lambeau that in all likelihood will decide the division champion. It is difficult to pick the Vikings to sweep Green Bay in any season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, and I think a home and home split is very likely.
Week 18 @ Chicago
Result: WIN (11-6)
Unless Sean Mannion buttons his chin strap for this one and the Vikings rest their starters, it should be another easy win. The Vikings may still be battling for playoff seeding.
Argument Against: A playoff berth is clinched for Minnesota invoking some apathy, and pride motivates the lowly Bears to play one of their best games of the season.
I went through every NFL game via playoffpredictors.com and 11 wins leaves the Vikings finishing second in the NFC North and securing the fifth seed in the playoffs. Anything can happen once you make it there.