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Lunchbreak: Vikings Ranked 15th in ESPN's Preseason Power Rankings  

EAGAN, Minn. — Despite winning 13 games last season, the Vikings remain pegged as a middle-of-the-pack team entering the 2023 season.

ESPN released its preseason power rankings, and the Vikings landed at No. 15. The Vikings dropped one spot (from 14th) since ESPN's post-draft rankings.

The rankings are made by an ESPN "power panel", which includes more than 80 ESPN writers, editors and TV personalities.

On the Vikings, ESPN's Kevin Seifert said much of the season will depend on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Seifert wrote:

Cousins is in a contract year for the fourth time in his career but the first since he signed with the Vikings in 2018. The Vikings decided against extending his current deal in March. There is no obvious heir on the roster, but at the very least, 35-year-old Cousins will have to ward off any hints of a physical decline to secure a new deal. On the other hand, a huge season could propel him to a bigger payday in free agency next offseason.

Tuesday morning on ESPN's "Get Up," NFL analyst Marcus Spears said the Vikings should be power ranked within the top 14 teams. He said:

"Kirk Cousins is very good at playing quarterback. Justin Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the NFL, and this offense under Kevin O'Connell is still going to be electric."

The highest-rated NFC North team was the Lions. Detroit ranked 10th. On quarterback Jared Goff, ESPN writer Eric Woodyard wrote:

Expectations are high in Detroit, and the Lions have reassured Goff that he is their guy. With that being said, it would be a disappointment if the Lions don't reach the postseason after narrowly missing the playoffs in 2022. The Lions finished the season with eight wins in their last 10 games, and Goff's strong play was a major factor — but they'll need him to be consistent all season in his third year in Detroit. He'll have to produce if he hopes to lock down a long-term deal. Goff is signed through 2024, but the team also drafted Hendon Hooker in the third round of April's draft, so the future isn't so clear for him in Detroit.

The Packers ranked 20th and the Bears landed at 24th.

Click here to read ESPN's full power rankings.

Vikings send condolences to family of Maxie Baughan

The Vikings are sending condolences to the family of Maxie Baughan, who died Saturday at age 85.

Baughan was a legendary NFL linebacker for the Eagles during the 1960s and earned nine Pro Bowl nods.

Baughan coached Vikings linebackers in 1990 and '91 after after serving as head coach at Cornell from 1983-88.

Paul Wiggin was the Vikings defensive line coach at the time and recalled Baughan as a good coach with a wealth of experience in the game.

"Maxie was a really good person and coach," Wiggin said. "We overlapped as players in the NFL, so I remember him from those days. He was a really good player, tough, smart. He's in the College Football Hall of Fame. I enjoyed working with him when he was here."

New York Times writer Alex Williams highlighted Baughan’s life. On Baughan, he wrote:

Blending ferocity with a seeming omnipresence on the gridiron, Baughan became a two-way standout for the [Georgia Tech] Yellow Jackets, starting at linebacker and center and becoming team captain. By his senior season, in 1959, he was a star. He was named a consensus All-American that year and voted the Southeastern Conference lineman of the year.

Although Georgia Tech lost the 1960 Gator Bowl to Frank Broyles's Arkansas Razorbacks, Baughan was named one of two most valuable players in the game, along with the Arkansas safety Jim Mooty. Although not physically imposing by N.F.L. standards, Baughan, at 6 foot 1 and 227 pounds, was picked by the Eagles in the second round of the 1960 draft. Still, the league itself was something of a mystery to him. At that point there was no team in its eastern conference further south than Washington.

On his coaching career, Williams wrote:

He would patrol the sidelines for more than two decades, serving as a defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions and head coach at Cornell University. He capped his career as a linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens.

In that role, he mentored the future Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks of the Buccaneers and Ray Lewis of the Ravens.

The Athletic debates: Would you rather be the Vikings or Giants?

The Vikings and Giants are linked as teams that exceeded expectations in the first year of a new regime, and, of course, met in the playoffs. The Athletic's Alec Lewis and Dan Duggan debated which team has a brighter future.

The Athletic asked Lewis and Duggan to explore which of these teams that overachieved and surprised pundits last season is in better position to succeed both now and in the next three seasons?

On the Vikings quarterback situation, Lewis wrote:

The Vikings know what they have in 2023. Kirk Cousins, who has started at least 15 games in each season since the team signed him in 2018, will be the signal caller. Both he and the team are optimistic because, for the first time since his Washington days, he will be working with the same play caller and offensive system for a second consecutive season.

Those factors could lead to a career year for the 35-year-old, which would only exacerbate the team's uncertain future at the position. Unless the Vikings and Cousins agree to an extension, Cousins' contract is set to void at the end of the 2023 season. If that happens, the Vikings will not only incur a hefty dead-cap charge, but they'll also be without an obvious successor. Minnesota drafted Jaren Hall in the fifth round of this year's draft, but he is a developmental option. Furthermore, if Cousins performs well this fall and the team reaches the playoffs, a late first-round pick might complicate a potential trade-up to get a quarterback for the future.

Lewis and Duggan go back and fourth on topics that include "Non-QB talent", "key decision makers" "resources to improve" and "other considerations".

Under the other considerations section, Lewis highlighted the Vikings short-term plans He wrote:

Part of the reason Minnesota has taken a "competitive rebuild" approach these last two seasons is their division. The Lions appear to be ascending, but the Packers and Bears remain question marks, especially at quarterback. The Vikings won the NFC North last season, going 4-2 in the division, and this season feels similarly up for grabs. In the short term, the Vikings' chances at contending depend mostly on the defense. Newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Flores faces a tall task.