In a league built on competitive balance, the Minnesota Vikings have been stuck in the mud as a middle-of-the pack protagonist for far too long.
Getting little attention outside their own market, the Vikings made a move to change their direction by firing the defensive-minded Mike Zimmer after eight years at the helm.
They then raided the Super Bowl champions' coaching ranks for offensive brain Kevin O'Connell and made some eye-catching moves in free agency.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last year, but is still rated poor value for the contract he received and that financial commitment has restricted their free agent spending in recent times.
It has also forced the Vikings to allow some talented players they would have liked to keep walk and they lost four starters this offseason, but were at least able to weaken a division rival by signing ex-Green Bay Packers edge rusher Za'Darius Smith to a $42 million contract.
NFL, 2022/23 season
Across the United States, games also scheduled for London, Munich and Mexico City
September 8th 2022 - February 12th 2023
|How to watch|
NFL Game Pass, ESPN, CBS, FOX, NBC, NFL Network
BUF Bills +600, TB Buccaneers +700, KC Chiefs +1000, LA Rams +1000, GB Packers +1200
2nd in NFC North (8-9)
The Vikings have been in contention for the playoffs for the past two seasons, only to lose three of their last four games and finish 7-9 in 2020, before a 0-2 start left them to play catch-up last year.
But a soft schedule and a new coaching staff could help them bridge the gap to a potentially weaker Packers team if it all goes to plan in 2022.
Minnesota are -110 to make the postseason for the first time since 2018 and +275 to win the NFC North in what should be a two-horse race with the -200 Packers.
The Vikings host the Green Bay Packers, the NFC North champions for the past three seasons, on opening weekend.
The two teams have met each other 123 times in total, with the Packers winning 64 games and the Vikings coming out on top in 56 others.
There have also been three ties in the storied history between the rivals - the last of which came in Week 2 of 2018 when the Vikings executed a stupendous comeback in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota erased a 13-point deficit when Kirk Cousins had touchdown throws of 75 yards to Stefon Diggs and 22 to Adam Thielen, as well as a 2-point conversion pass to Diggs that tied the game at 29 with 31 seconds remaining.
The Packers are -130 to claim the road win with the Vikings at +110 on the Money Line to get their season off to a successful start.
By most estimations, Minnesota have landed a fairly easy schedule - with 10 of their 17 games against teams that missed the playoffs in 2021.
Aside from the two games against the Packers and the Week 10 trip to Buffalo to face Bills, there aren't any overly difficult matchups on the slate.
The game against the Bills will be the first time Diggs has faced his former teak since the 2020 trade that has so far worked out well for all parties.
But O'Connell's men had better be ready to ready to play from the get-go with two testing games in the first two weeks and the odds not favouring 0-2 teams making the playoffs.
A former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator out of the Sean McVay coaching tree, O'Connell was a key figure in the Super Bowl champions ultimate victory in 2021.
He developed the Rams' game plans, designed their plays and implemented all the details necessary to make it work on Sundays.
But he ascends to his first head coaching role without any prior play-calling experience in the NFL - which is rare for an ex-OC these days.
OLB Za'Darius Smith (Green Bay Packers)
DT Harrison Phillips (Buffalo Bills)
LB Jordan Hicks (Arizona Cardinals)
OG Chris Reed (Indianapolis Colts)
OT Jesse Davis (Miami Dolphins)
TE Johnny Mundt (Los Angeles Rams)
CB Chandon Sullivan (Green Bay Packers)
WR Albert Wilson (Miami Dolphins)
CB Nate Hairston (Denver Broncos)
DE Jonathan Bullard (Atlanta Falcons)
OG Austin Schlottmann (Denver Broncos)
DE Andre Mintze (Denver Broncos)
TE Shaun Beyer (Denver Broncos)
TE Tyler Conklin (New York Jets)
C Mason Cole (Pittsburgh Steelers)
S Xavier Woods (Carolina Panthers)
OLB Anthony Barr (Dallas Cowboys)
OLB Nick Vigil (Arizona Cardinals)
TE Chris Herndon (New Orleans Saints)
WR Chad Beebe (Houston Texans)
DE Tashawn Bower (Las Vegas Raiders)
CB Mackensie Alexander (Miami Dolphins)
DT Sheldon Richardson
OG Rashod Hill (Washington Commanders)
WR Dede Westbrook
DE Everson Griffen
RB Wayne Gallman
DT Jordon Scott
DE Eddie Yarbrough
|Defensive MVP||Za'Darius Smith|
Lewis Cine (1st Round)
Jefferson, still only 23, has emerged as one of the best receivers in the NFL over his first two seasons in the league. He had a great rookie year and was even better in 2021, catching 108 passes for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns.
New recruit Smith could be a huge addition to the Vikings pass rush that will also return perennial Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter.
Smith logged 26 total sacks in Green Bay across the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but was limited to just one game last year because of injury.
Darrisaw did well enough in his rookie year to suggest he could be the Vikings left tackle for the next few years if he stays healthy.
The former fist-round pick out of Virginia Tech is an athletic blocker and should improve in 2022.