In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of significant player movement across the National Football League, and several teams have gotten better.
One team that hasn’t been talked about much is the Minnesota Vikings, mostly because they haven’t made any splashy moves.
But they finished with a not-too-terrible 8-9 record this past season, despite dealing with some key injuries.
Could the Vikings be on their way back to the playoffs in 2022?
They Have Pieces On Offense
He had one of his best statistical seasons in 2021, throwing for 4,221 yards and 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, good enough for a very strong 103.1 passer rating.
Cousins was rewarded for his productivity by being named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his 10-year career.
He also has some dependable weapons to rely on, starting with young wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson had a whale of a sophomore season with 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns, numbers that earned him his second trip to the Pro Bowl and a spot on the All-Pro team.
In addition, tight end Irv Smith Jr. is expected to return after tearing his meniscus last September.
Prior to the injury, he had become a reliable target for Cousins in red zone situations.
🗯2020 Irv Smith was tied with Justin Jefferson in RZ targets but finished with more catches & touchdowns in the RZ🔥keep in mind he was in a 50/50 snap split with Kyle Rudolph🤔
The Return of Irv Smith will be beautiful. pic.twitter.com/mpQwd27L41
— LaQuan Jones (@RealDealFantasy) April 4, 2022
In the backfield, Dalvin Cook is a very good and productive running back who posted 1,159 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season.
It was his third-consecutive year with at least 1,000 yards, as well as the third straight year he was selected to be in the Pro Bowl.
The Defense Could Be Better
Last year, the Vikings were just 24th in points allowed and 30th in yards given up, and those numbers need to improve big-time for them to make the postseason.
Luckily, help is on the way.
Minnesota signed pass rusher Za’Darius Smith to a three-year contract worth $42 million, and if he’s healthy, he will significantly improve a pass defense that ranked towards the bottom of the NFL.
Smith, who ironically was a member of the Vikings’ NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers, had 12.5 sacks and 23 QB hits in the 2020 season, the last time he was healthy.
If his back injury is fully behind him, the Vikings will benefit from his presence.
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) March 30, 2022
The One Thing That Could Push Minnesota Into The Playoffs
As the NFL draft and spring workouts approach, the rest of the NFC looks somewhat weaker than it did months ago.
The Dallas Cowboys have lost star wide receiver Amari Cooper, as well as defensive end Randy Gregory, and although they definitely seem to have the talent to make the playoffs, they may not be a shoo-in to win their division.
Green Bay won’t have Davante Adams (or Smith) anymore, and perhaps an argument could be made that the Vikings now have more talent than their rivals in Wisconsin.
With good health and a few breaks, one should expect the Vikings to grab at least a wild card spot in the NFL playoffs next season.