Facing an offseason of uncertainty after a charmed 2022 regular season, perhaps one instructive way to look at how the Vikings should approach 2023 is through this lens: Should they be favored to win the NFC North again?
If you answer "yes," then you probably want them to approach the offseason differently than if you answer "no." But however you arrive at either answer is complicated.
Here are some of the factors at play:
REGRESSION VS. SYSTEM COMFORT
It is virtually impossible that the Vikings will go 11-0 in one-score games during the regular season again. Their one-score playoff loss to the Giants exposed the fragility of banking on close victories.
It also stands to reason that the Vikings will need to make hard choices on high-priced veterans in order to get under the salary cap and potentially extend NFL MVP finalist Justin Jefferson. While some of that roster pruning might help the Vikings get younger and faster, there will still be growing pains.
Is Year 2 under Kevin O'Connell — particularly on offense, and assuming Kirk Cousins is still the QB — enough to offset some of that regression? Perhaps. But from here it feels like a chore to win even 10 games, let alone 13. If that's a best-case scenario, is that enough?
THE RODGERS FACTOR
Some of that might depend on what Aaron Rodgers decides he wants to do, whenever he decides to stop talking about it and actually make a decision (as was discussed on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast).
Though Rodgers looked older, slower and generally less effective in 2022 than could have been predicted, some of that could be attributed to injury and a less-than-ideal level of dedication in the offseason.
If he decides he wants to still play, and decides he wants that to be for the Packers, there is still enough there for Green Bay to be a bounceback factor in 2023.
ARE THE LIONS FOR REAL?
Detroit was the best team in the division over the second half of the season. The Lions will be a trendy pick to win the North, as was evidenced by a recent ESPN piece that sampled several league executives and noted "a few people we spoke to floated Detroit as a divisional winner in 2023."
The Lions can still be the Lions, but they will be a factor.
OH YEAH, THE BEARS
Chicago is almost certainly going to finish last in the four-team division. But the Bears have the No. 1 pick and should be better in 2023 — perhaps good enough to steal a game from the Vikings.
Ultimately, the Vikings should still be a division contender in a less-than-great NFC North. But they won't run away with it like they did in 2022, and they might not win it at all.