Vikings Listed as Team That Could Exceed Expectations in 2024

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings had a down year in 2023, there’s no question about it. The team saw its star quarterback, Kirk Cousins, go down with a serious injury, and the squad sputtered to a 7-10 record and missed the playoffs.

This offseason, the Vikings went through notable changes. For starters, Cousins departed for the Atlanta Falcons. Star edge rusher Danielle Hunter also left in free agency and joined the Houston Texans. These losses alone would worry most fans, and then you add in that the Vikings have one of the toughest schedules in the league, and you could understand why not many are picking the Vikings to contend in 2024.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fans react during the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

CBS Sports recently picked out which NFL teams will exceed and fail to meet expectations in 2024. Cody Benjamin picked the Vikings as his team, which will exceed expectations. Regarding that pick, Benjamin said the following:

The Minnesota Vikings may not have a clear-cut quarterback for the 2024 season, or at least a confirmed plan for both Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy, but the talent level around them under Kevin O’Connell is top-notch. Throw in Brian Flores’ defense, which has a potentially deeper pass rush, and this club could muddy up an NFC North race between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.

As Benjamin notes, the Vikings’ pass rush may actually be deeper than it was a year ago. In 2023, Hunter was the only player to achieve double-digit sacks. This season, the team will have a rotation of Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and rookie Dallas Turner, and any of those players could reach ten sacks.

Will the Vikings Be Better than Many Expect in 2024?

As my colleague Janik Eckardt pointed out, there are reasons for optimism in 2024. Perhaps Sam Darnold recaptures some magic working under Kevin O’Connell, or perhaps rookie J.J. McCarthy earns the job outright and impresses.

NFL: Houston Texans at New York Jets
Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back Dalvin Cook (33) is tackled by Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Also, it’s hard not to trust a Brian Flores-led defense. As mentioned above, the additions of Greenard, Van Ginkel, and Turner should ensure the Vikings have a quality pass rush. The secondary should be one of the strongest units on the team, with three outstanding safeties and a cornerback group featuring last year’s Akayleb Evans, Byron Murphy Jr., and Mekhi Blackmon, as well as offseason addition Shaquill Griffin.

The schedule will undoubtedly be tough to get around. Playing each NFC North team twice and games against the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans makes it easy to see why the Vikes have the fourth-toughest schedule.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most important move of the offseason, however, was re-signing Justin Jefferson. The star receiver will be in the Twin Cities for at least the next five seasons, which is right in line with the contract of his rookie QB. Keep in mind that Jordan Addison was one of the most promising rookie receivers in the league last season, so the Vikings have an elite duo in town for seasons to come. This duo will do wonders for whoever is playing QB in 2024.