January 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports.
Vikings Insider, the general manager’s point of view
With Vikings rookies showing up for training camp this Sunday and vets soon to follow, my camp preview will be available next week along with a look at things to watch out for during this time leading up to the regular season opener. against the Packers.
For this week, I want to follow up my Vikings season prediction from last week (which is 10-7 and a wildcard) with my NFC North race prediction – plus my thoughts on some recent comments from Justin Jefferson and Jim Marshall in as a Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Semi-Finalist.
The NFC North in 2022: Green Bay won the North by five games over the No. 2 Vikings last year. I think the race will be tighter this season as I see the Vikings improving and the Packers regressing a bit. The loss of starting receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling clearly diminishes the offense even with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. If All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari returns from his ACL tear as expected, along with Pro Bowl corner Jaire Alexander (who missed 13 games last season), the Packers will definitely be better at those spots. And the Pack’s defense will be solid with two first round players (Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt) added to a strong core.
I already predicted that the Vikings would beat the field on opening day and there is a good chance that the Vikings will still be in the division race until they go to Lambeau Field on the day of the year. I see Green Bay going into this game 10-5 with Minnesota 9-6 and the Packers clinching the split that day and finishing 12-5.
The Vikings at 10-7 would be second in the division in my scenario, then I have the Lions improving from 3-13-1 to 7-10 (including another split season with Minnesota). Jared Goff is still a question mark at QB, but his supporting cast is improved, especially when fast first-round receiver Jameson Williams can come back from his torn ACL (likely mid-season). The second overall pick, Aidan Hutchinson, should have an immediate impact on defense.
Fiery coach Dan Campbell made the Lions believe after their 3-3 win last year that included the last-second upset win over the Vikings in Detroit. Their talent is on the rise and I think they will surpass Chicago this season.
Like the Vikings, the Bears are on board a new coaching staff led by former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. I thought the Bears should have hired an offensive guru as their head coach to help accelerate the development of QB Justin Fields, but they brought in Luke Getsy, who was the Packers’ QB coach and passing game coordinator ( and like Kevin O’Connell, this is his first time as an NFL caller).
The Bears’ offensive line and talented players are disappointing, and that will make it difficult for Fields to avoid the turnovers he made last season as he tries to take that big step forward in Year 2.
Like I said, the Bears defense lost two of its best players, Khalil Mack being traded to Las Vegas and Akiem Hicks signing with Tampa Bay. Linebacker Roquan Smith is still a force. I just feel like the Bears are in rebuilding mode and looking like a 6-11 team like they were last season.
As for the Vikings’ record in the division, I predict a repeat of last season’s 4-2 mark by splitting the two matchups with the Packers and Lions and sweeping the Bears.
JJ has a lot of confidence: I think it’s great when players act and play with great confidence, and Justin Jefferson is definitely in that mode. I also think it’s better when players let their game do the talking, but I agree with a player saying publicly that he thinks he’s an elite player as long as he doesn’t put other players down.
In a recent interview with Complex, Jefferson was asked where he sees himself among the best receivers today, and he didn’t hesitate to answer: “I will say that after this year I will be the best receiver in the NFL.” . he said. “I definitely have to give it to Davante Adams from now on, but I’m pretty sure after this year it will be me. I think I have to do it for three years in a row for everyone to believe it.
Jefferson added that he is “still working on my game” and “with this new offense with Coach O’Connell, we are all excited about this new playbook and hopefully we have a better season this year. ”
Jefferson’s 1,616 receiving yards ranked second to Cooper Kupp of the Rams last season, and his 3,016 receiving yards are the most in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons. The Vikings would like to see the two-time Pro Bowler have another great year to back up his prediction.
Captain Marshall in the Hall of Fame? : There are 19 former Vikings players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it’s a travesty that Jim Marshall has yet to join this esteemed group. A member of the Vikings Ring of Honor, Marshall was the defensive captain and true team leader of the Vikings’ dominant teams in the 1960s and 1970s. He was an incredible iron man who played defensive end for the Purple People Eaters during of 282 consecutive games (58 more than the next closest defensive lineman in NFL history).
He played at a high level throughout his 19 years with the Vikings and had 130.5 sacks, an unofficial number as sacks were not an official NFL stat until 1982. This is a factor that hurt his Hall of Fame bid, as he would rank 22nd. all-time in the category if all of his sacks were considered official, and he also played in an era with far fewer overs. Moreover, he was a versatile defender who played the run well. His 30 career fumble recoveries trail only Rod Woodson.
Marshall was recently named among 25 semi-finalists for review by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s senior committee, a list that will be whittled down to 12 on July 27 before being narrowed down to three seniors in August for final review, where he would need 80% of the vote to enter with that final vote taking place during Super Bowl week next February.
Jim was a great person I could work with as a young front office. He was always involved in community events and was kind, funny, and not self-centered. I strongly encourage him to receive this long-awaited honor.
Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings general manager, former president of the Tennessee Titans and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the Minneapolis-based NFL IFA agent group and does other sports and media tips. work with college/business speaking. Follow and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl