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NFL

Vikings 2022 NFL preview, schedule: Packers’ biggest threat in NFC North

Following the departure of Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings have hired Kevin O’Connell as their head coach, in a move that could bring the best out of QB Kirk Cousins.

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Justin Jefferson con los Vikings
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After reaching the postseason in 2019, Mike Zimmer’s project quickly faded and the head coach was fired at the end of the 2021 regular season, with Kevin O’Connell replacing him on the touchline. Given the results of Zimmer’s coaching career so far, Minnesota could be a serious contender for the NFC North title and NFC crown.

O’Connell hired by Vikings after excelling as Rams OC

For O’Connell, 37, the Vikings job is his first experience as a head coach, but he earned the job after what he showed as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. In his last season in charge of the Los Angeles offence, the club was the fifth-most productive passing attack in the NFL, with 4,642 yards.

Kirk Cousins, a quarterback known for his powerful throwing arm, could well benefit from the fact that he will be playing under a coach with particular offensive expertise, allowing him to take his game to the next level. Since he he arrived in Minnesota in 2018, Cousins has thrown for 16,387 yards, 124 touchdowns, 36 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 103.5. In that time span, the Michigan State alum is fifth in touchdowns, has the sixth-best QB rating, and is seventh in passing yards.

Jefferson, Cook key figures in Minnesota offence

Another factor that suggests the Vikings could flourish offensively is the presence of Justin Jefferson in O’Connell’s roster. In two years with the Vikings, the LSU product leads the NFL with 3,016 receiving yards. Within the Vikings, his 196 receptions far exceed Adam Thielen’s 141. He could do with upping his scoring rate, though, since he only has 17 touchdowns.

The final piece of the Vikes’ offence is Dalvin Cook. The 27-year-old running back has three consecutive seasons with more than a thousand yards (3,851 yards, 35 TDs in the period).

As if the above were not enough, Minnesota strengthened its secondary by recruiting Lewis Cine in the first round of the 2022 Draft and its front-seven experienced an injection of talent in free agency. Among the standout defensive backs are Za’Darius Smith, Jordan Hicks and Harrison Phillips.

The final factor working in Minnesota’s favour is the Green Bay Packers. Although the Packers start out among the favourites to reach the Super Bowl, the loss of Davante Adams makes Aaron Rodgers’ offence a mystery. Even Brett Favre acknowledged that without Adams, who has joined the Las Vegas Raiders, Rodgers will struggle.

Minnesota Vikings: brief fact file

Record in 2021: 8-9

Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium

Super Bowl tTitles: 0

Head coach: Kevin O'Connell

Offensive coordinator: Wes Phillips

Defensive coordinator: Ed Donatell

Minnesota Vikings’ 2022 NFL schedule

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5
vs Packersat Eaglesvs Lionsat Saintsvs Bears
Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10
at DolphinsBYEvs Cardinalsat Commandersat Bills
Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15
vs Cowboysvs Patriotsvs Jetsat Lionsvs Colts
Week 16Week 17Week 18
vs Giantsat Packersat Lions
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