Minnesota Vikings Last Season’s Performance
The 2021 season for the Minnesota Vikings ended in disappointment, with an 8-9 record, which meant back-to-back years with losing records. Outside of Mike Zimmer’s first-year coaching the Vikings in 2014, the last two seasons were the only ones with a losing record with him as coach. He was fired at the end of the season.
On offense, the team was one of the best in the league. The Vikings had three Pro Bowlers in Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and Justin Jefferson, one at every skill position. The combination of Cook on the ground and Jefferson through the air was exceptional, with the running game opening up for deep completions.
The defense was the clear Achillies’ heel of the Vikings. They gave up the third-most yards in the NFL. It didn’t matter if it was through the ground or air, the Vikings’ defense could not stop it. It led to some close and exciting games, but for a head coach that prides himself on defense, it played a part in his exit.
Minnesota Vikings Key Additions
If last season proved anything, it was the offense is the team’s strength and the defense needs a lot of improvements. The Vikings were very aware of that this offseason, making just about all of their key additions on the defensive side of the ball.
They signed defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, who played a significant role in stopping the run for a good Buffalo Bills defense. Jordan Hicks is an upgrade at linebacker, finishing with 116 tackles last year for his third straight season over 100 tackles. Finally, the signing of edge rusher Za’Darius Smith adds talent and steals a player from rivals Green Bay packers. He missed all last season with an injury but combined for 26 sacks in 2019 and 2020, making the Pro Bowl both years.
Like in free agency, the defense was the focus of the draft. However, the emphasis was on the weak secondary, drafting safety Lewis Cine at the end of the first round and cornerback Andrew Booth in the second round. Cine might start right away, while Booth might take some time but should be by the end of the season.
Minnesota Vikings Key Subtraction
Surprisingly, with the Vikings going through an overall regime change, new coach and general manager, the roster did not go through that many changes. A large part is because the offense is already set up for success. However, they did lose tight end Tyler Conklin, third in receptions last season, and offensive lineman Mason Cole who started just seven games playing in 14.
The defense did experience a few more losses, with some stand-out players leaving. Most notably, safety Xavier Woods, who was tied for the lead in interceptions on the team and came in third in total tackles. Linebackers Nick Vigil and Anthony Barr left the team, coming in fourth and fifth in tackles on the defense. Finally, defensive tackle Michael Pierce also chose to sign elsewhere after playing well in his eight games, after dealing with injury throughout the year.
Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Analysis
Zimmer saw his tenure with the Vikings end after leading the team since 2014. He led the team to two NFC North Division titles and three playoff appearances going 2-3. The last two years have seen the Vikings struggle.
The new head coach is Kevin O’Connell, who has spent the last two years as the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. Being part of the Rams coaching staff has almost been the quickest path to becoming a head coach in the NFL, and O’Connell is the newest coach to do so. It also doesn’t hurt that the Rams just won the Super Bowl with an impressive offense.
Changing from a defensive-minded head coach to an offensive might be the best choice for the Vikings, with how good their offense is. O’Connell will be able to implement all the nice tricks he has learned from Rams head coach Sean McVay to raise the level of an already talented offense.
Minnesota Vikings Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season
Last season the Vikings didn’t have an overwhelming number of injuries, but many key players were lost. Cook missed four games with the regular bumps and bruises a starting running back goes through. Michael Pierce missed seven weeks in the middle of the season after being an impactful player in the team’s run defense. Starting tight end Irv Smith Jr., who has had an injury-riddled career, missed the entire 2021 season. Smith just picked up an injury in training camp, but it should not affect him playing Week 1.
Headed into the 2022 season, the Vikings are relatively healthy. The only two players on the IR or PUP list are lower-end depth pieces. That could bode well for the Vikings headed into the season as they look to possibly make a playoff push in O’Connell first year.
Minnesota Vikings Offense
The Vikings ended 2021 in the top half of the NFL in overall offensive stats, and a lot of that had to do with the team’s passing game. Cousins is not a wow-factor quarterback, but he was able to get the job done. He ended the season with 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions.
A large part of those passing yards went to Jefferson, who has made the Pro Bowl in his two years in the NFL, coming in second in most receiving yards with 1,616. He officially became the No. 1receiver over Adam Thielen, who still puts up good production when healthy, catching 10 touchdowns in 13 games.
Cook ended the season in fifth in total rushing yards. His running is what set up the big play action passes down the field to Jefferson that helped him rack up so many yards.
Under O’Connell, the Vikings offense is bound to take a step forward after he led the Rams to a Super Bowl win. He also has the offensive talent in Cousins, Cook, Jefferson, and Thielen to keep a similar offense he ran with the Rams. In 2022 the Vikings could look even better than they did last season.
Minnesota Vikings Defense
It was pretty clear the defense had taken a step back last season after having been one of the more solid parts of the team. One of the most significant weaknesses was the secondary, which faced the fifth-most passing attempts, but also gave up the fifth most passing yards. The safety position was fine with Woods and Pro Bowler Harrison Smith, but the outside corners were the issue.
Patrick Peterson, at 31 years old, has lost a step since being one of the elite NFL corners, and second-year Cameron Dantzler did improve, but not to the extent they needed. Drafting Booth should bring some extra talent and competition to the courtside croners, and Cine can replace Woods.
They fared a little better against opposing teams running attack, but not much, ranking seventh in most rushing yards, allowing 4.9 yards per carry. The additions of Phillips and Hicks should hopefully help with that. They did get to the quarterback a lot, ending the season with 51 sacks, second in the NFL, and Za’Darius Smith should make that pass rush even better.
There have been minor improvements to the Vikings’ defense, but it might not improve the overall defensive stats in 2022. On top of that, the loss of Zimmer’s defensive game plan could have a negative effect.
Minnesota Vikings Special Teams
Throughout the 2021 season, the Vikings featured punter Jordan Berry and placekicker Greg Joseph. Both were solid all season.
Joseph made 86.8% of his field-goal attempts, with his long being 55 yards, and 90% of his extra points. Berry was in the middle of most punter stats averaging 46.5 per punt and downing teams within 20 yards 26 times.
The kick return duties were shared between Dede Westbrook, who handled punt returns, and Kene Nwangwu, handling kickoffs. Nwangwu ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns, leading the NFL, and will be on the team again in 2022. Westbrook will not be on the team in 2022. K.J. Osborn is set to take over as punt returner after returning four last season.
Minnesota Vikings Prediction for the 2022 Season
Even with a disappointing season for the Vikings, they still somehow found a way to be at least around the playoffs at the end of the season. If they had made it in, they probably would have been blown out by the Tampa Bay Bucs, just like the Philadelphia Eagles, who only had one more win than the Vikings.
The offense will look amazing behind Cousins, Cook, and Jefferson, with O’Connell running the show. They will be able to outscore some middle-of-the-pack NFL teams and even fight against some better teams. The issue is that they will need to score a lot because their defense is still the weak point of the roster.
The Packers are still going to sit atop the NFC North, and that won’t change this season, but the Vikings could sneak into the playoffs through the Wild Card. With their offense, there is at least some hope that can happen, and at least having a winning record, which is far better than the last two seasons.
Minnesota Vikings Final Thoughts
Last season four of the Vikings’ losses were by a field goal or less. If the defense were a little better, that could have flipped some of those losses into wins. .
The defense didn’t get massive improvements, but some extra talent that could make some game-changing plays throughout the season. That paired up with such a potent offense, the Vikings are looking like a possible playoff team.
Thielen did miss four games last season and played sparingly in two games due to injuries. If he can stay healthy, the duo of him with Jefferson is something special, and O’Connell will be able to get the best out of them.
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Denver Broncos FAQs
How many Super Bowls have the Broncos been to?
The Broncos have been to the Super Bowl eight times, in 1977, ‘86, ‘87, ‘89, ‘97, ‘98, 2013 and 2015, The Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1997, 1998 and 2015.
What is the Denver Broncos’ all-time record?
The Broncos’ all-time record is 495-444-10
Who owns the Denver Broncos?
The Walton-Penner Ownership Group
When was the last time the Broncos were in the playoffs?
In 2015, when Denver won the Super Bowl.