Even though NFL teams have known their 2022 opponents since the 2021 regular season ended in January, there must just be something about the schedule release — the "when" to go along with the "who and where" — that boosts predictive confidence.
The Vikings full schedule dropped last week. It features the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 1, an appearance at Philadelphia in Week 2 on Monday Night Football, and Minnesota's third appearance in a regular-season game hosted by London. It also includes intriguing non-division matchups.
Based exclusively on the results in the 2021 regular season, the Vikings face the 20th-hardest schedule. This year's opponents went a combined 139-148-2 for a win percentage of .484.
In 2021, Minnesota faced the fifth-hardest schedule based on 2020 results (144-127-1 for a win percentage of .531) and finished 8-9 in the NFL's first 17-game season.
As for as strength of schedule based on forecasted win totals, the Vikings landed at 16th overall according to sharpfootballanalysis.com. The site based its forecasted win totals off oddsmakers.
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and the Vikings began their Organized Team Activity practices this week.
Here's what experts are forecasting for the Vikings this fall.
Cynthia Frelund, NFL.com
Prediction: 8.9 wins and the No. 7 seed in the NFC Playoffs
Frelund's method involved projecting 53-man rosters for each team before simulating all 272 regular-season games 75,000 times.
After hiring a new general manager and head coach, Frelund's predictive analytics have the Vikings right in the neighborhood of where they were a season ago when they missed the playoffs by a game. Frelund has Minnesota edging out Arizona, a team the Vikings will host in Week 8.
Minnesota is one of my favorite teams that we aren't talking enough about as a postseason contender. That said, the Vikings have two separate three-game stretches that my models suggest could make their road to the playoffs difficult. The first is a bit surprising and a function of their travel schedule, as they do not have a bye after facing the Saints in England in Week 4. They return from overseas to host the Bears in Week 5, then travel to Miami in Week 6 before their Week 7 bye. The Vikes second rough patch starts at Buffalo in Week 10 (the second of back-to-back road games), which is followed by home games against Dallas and New England, with the latter coming on a short week Thanksgiving night.
Kevin Seifert, ESPN
ESPN had its "NFL Nation" team issue a "bold prediction" for each team. Seifert said he expects Minnesota to win more than nine games and wrote the following:
_The Vikings are making the playoffs in Coach Kevin O'Connell's first season. They won't beat the Packers for the NFC North title, but O'Connell has inherited a talented offense and will bring with him a scheme that helped win Super Bowl LVI when he was Rams offensive coordinator. _
Will Ragatz, Sports Illustrated
The Vikings got a pretty reasonable schedule for Kevin O'Connell's first year as head coach. Nine of their first 15 games are at home, and one of those six "road" games is a neutral-site game against the Saints in London. The start to the season will be a lot of fun, with the Packers coming to town in Week 1, the Vikings facing the Eagles on the road for a Monday night game in Week 2, and the aforementioned London game in Week 4. Interestingly, the Vikings don't have a bye after returning from London — it's in Week 7, instead. Their toughest stretch comes in Weeks 10–12 … with games [at Buffalo and at home against the] Cowboys and Patriots (Thanksgiving night) in a span of 12 days. Ending in the cold with January games at Lambeau Field and Soldier Field could also be a tough task. Overall, though, it's a fairly favorable home schedule that could help O'Connell and a talented roster get back to the playoffs. Don't sleep on Minnesota as an NFC North contender along with the Packers.
Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report
If first-time Head Coach Kevin O'Connell isn't a complete whiff hire, the Minnesota Vikings can challenge the Packers for the NFC North title.
With that said, Minnesota needs second-year left tackle Christian Darrisaw to pick up where he left off last season and rookie second-round guard Ed Ingram to become a reliable starter opposite Ezra Cleveland. At center, Garrett Bradbury is a major concern, but he's a fairly decent run-blocker.
Behind a solid offensive line, quarterback Kirk Cousins should extend his streak of 4,200-plus passing yards and 33-plus touchdowns to three seasons with wideouts Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn on the perimeter. Tight end Irv Smith, Jr.'s return from a torn meniscus will boost the passing attack. Running back Dalvin Cook provides balance on the ground.
The Vikings improved their defense over the offseason, which will take some pressure off the offense.
If rookie second-round cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr., doesn't miss time because of core-muscle surgery and a quad injury, he'll battle with Cameron Dantzler and Patrick Peterson for one of the boundary spots. That's a solid trio with newcomer Chandon Sullivan projected to line up in the slot. Rookie safety Lewis Cine will set the tone for the defense alongside established veteran Harrison Smith.
Most importantly, a healthy pass-rushing duo featuring Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter can change a defense that ranked 24thand 30thin points and yards allowed, respectively, last year. Both defenders have logged double-digit sacks multiple times in their careers.
Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports
Sullivan focused his predictive efforts on Week 1 across the NFL. We'll obviously have more predictions on this matchup in the week before the game, but here's an initial look.
Projected score: Packers 27, Vikings 24
Aaron Rodgers had his six-season streak of winning in Week 1 snapped last season as the Packers fell to the Saints, but the back-to-back NFL MVP has historically played well to begin the year. For his career, Rodgers is 10-4 [straight up] in Week 1 and has a 100.2 passer rating in those games. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins is .500 in Week 1 as the starter for the Vikings and has lost the past two. It'll be interesting to see how Green Bay's offense flows without Davante Adams, but Rodgers finds a way to pull out the win.