Doomsday Scenario Forecasted for 2024 Vikings

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

It has been a crazy offseason for the Minnesota Vikings, especially since losing quarterback Kirk Cousins and pass rusher Danielle Hunter hurt the roster. Both players are four-time Pro Bowlers and were perhaps the two most important players on the team (although Justin Jefferson deserves serious consideration).

Doomsday Scenario Forecasted for 2024 Vikings

The squad will look a lot differently without the two standouts, but the front office acquired replacements who can contribute immediately and others who could become difference-makers in the long term. However, not many believe in the operation led by head coach Kevin O’Connell.

Doomsday Scenario Forecasted for 2024 Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and quarterback Jaren Hall (16) look on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, Bleacher Report‘s Maurice Moton published his projected last-placed teams in each division, and Minnesota was his choice for the NFC North for the first time since 2013. The good news is the projected record of 8-9, which indicates a team contending for the playoffs until late in the season rather than a totally disastrous campaign.

Unlike some of the other teams projected to finish last, the Minnesota Vikings won’t fall to the bottom of the overall standings with one of the league’s worst records, though they’re in a division that could be the most improved between 2023 and 2024.

Maurice Moton

Cousins departed, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed Sam Darnold to take his place. The long-term outlook foresees rookie J.J. McCarthy as the real successor, but his development might take a year or two. That position is the top reason for Moton’s projection, in addition to the improved foes.

Jan 9, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

Meanwhile, the Vikings lost quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency and signed Sam Darnold, who has had issues with turnovers in his six seasons.

Rookie first-rounder J.J. McCarthy may not be ready to take the reins under center after serving as more of a game manager than a playmaker at Michigan over the last two years.

Head coach and offensive play-caller Kevin O’Connell may be able to get the best out of Darnold as he did with Cousins. Darnold will make plays with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson on the receiving end.

However, the Vikings will likely have to live with Darnold’s stretch of erratic plays, which may hurt them in several close games.

Darnold’s mistakes have been the reason why neither the New York Jets nor the Carolina Panthers were willing to build their franchises around him. In 66 career games (56 starts), Darnold has thrown 56 interceptions. Since his arrival in the NFL, 3.1% of his passes have been intercepted, ranking him 46th of 49 QBs with more than 20 starts in that span. Cousins, meanwhile, ranks tenth with 1.8%.

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws the ball against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

His infamous quote of seeing ghosts might be a good description of who he is. Regardless, in the last two seasons ‒ granted, the sample size is quite small with seven starts and 186 pass attempts ‒ only 2.2% of his passes resulted in turnovers, which is a respectable number and would place him with the likes of Jalen Hurts and Matthew Stafford somewhere among average passers in that category.

The popular theory among fans, but perhaps also within Minnesota’s facility, is that the passer hasn’t been properly supported in New York and Carolina. Untapped potential is possible, especially with the excellent coaching he will get from O’Connell, who squeezed the best out of Nick Mullens and Joshua Dobbs last year.

Still, the outlook is somewhat bleak in the NFC North. The Packers return almost their entire group from last season. Despite fielding the youngest team in the league, the franchise marched into the playoffs and upset the Dallas Cowboys on the road. The group also had the 49ers on the ropes one week later.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a pass against the Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit, meanwhile, is coming off the first division win in three decades, and that title was never in doubt. Similarly to Green Bay, the core of the team returns. Chicago added some pieces in the offseason, primarily quarterback Caleb Williams and wideouts Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze.

All four teams form one of the toughest divisions on paper. Moton’s analysis that none of the teams are expected to be a total disaster seems accurate. For the Vikings, the 2024 season is a transformational year for the time post-Cousins. Developing young talent like McCarthy and pass rusher Dallas Turner is crucial for the organization’s future and might be more important than any record.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this article.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt