The Minnesota Vikings can't win every close game again
Longtime fans of Madden know the feeling. You're playing on the highest difficulty (All-Madden), and you have a late lead. Then it hits you: it doesn't matter what you do, you're not winning this game. The ref makes a phantom holding call, your normally reliable running back fumbles, then the computer catches three impossible passes on its way to a last second victory. You throw your controller across the room and wonder where it all went wrong.
That was last year's Minnesota Vikings. The team won the NFC North with a 13-4 record, but look closer and you'll see a team primed to come back to earth. The Vikings were an unreplicable 11-0 in one-score games and 5-0 in games decided by a field goal or less.
The Vikings pulled off the NFL's largest comeback of all-time, erasing a 33-point deficit to beat the Colts at home. They overcame a 17-point deficit to win at Buffalo, benefiting from a fumbled snap by the Bills on their own goal line as they attempted to run the clock out. Greg Joseph kicked a 61-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Giants. The list goes on.
Despite posting one of the league's best records, the Vikings had a negative point differential for the season. Their Pythagorean win expectancy was 8.4, marking the largest difference between actual wins and win expectancy in NFL history.
There's no arguing about the Vikings' offense. Led by Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and T.J. Hockenson, they're loaded. Alexander Mattison will take over workhorse duties from Dalvin Cook, and rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison enters the season with big expectations.
For as good as the Vikings' offense is, though, the defense is just as bad, and there's little to suggest they will improve in 2023. The team added three notable free agents this offseason, but none project to be difference-makers, starting with Byron Murphy, who is a clear downgrade at cornerback after Patrick Peterson left for Pittsburgh. Murphy failed to record an interception in 2022, while Peterson had five with a lower reception rate allowed.
Marcus Davenport was brought in to add firepower in the pass rush, but the former Saint recorded only half a sack in 15 games last year. He's joined on the defensive line by fellow newcomer Dean Lowry, who also had just half a sack in 2022. These two will try to replace Dalvin Tomlinson, who left the Vikings for a lucrative contract with the Cleveland Browns.
Everything went right for Minnesota last season, and they still lost at home to the Giants in the first round of the playoffs. Unless EA Sports really is pulling the strings behind the scenes, expect the Vikings to be much worse this year.