What If the Vikings Are Actually the Best Team In the North?

Photo credit: Kareem Elgazzar (USA TODAY Sports)

Why don’t you take a minute and Google the NFC North standings? You’ll see the Minnesota Vikings on top and the Green Bay Packers at the bottom. Because the Vikings have not lost to an NFC team and have the lowest point differential (-3), they hold the title even though they are 0-1.

C’mon, who’s to say the Vikings aren’t the best team in the NFC North? Because right now, they are.

The Vikings’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was disappointing considering how much fans, players, and the media hyped up the team in the offseason. But the second biggest reason they lost the game (Dalvin Cook was down!) was something easily remediable.

The Vikings committed 12 penalties, four shy of their franchise-record 16 penalties in a single game. The penalties on Sunday added up to 116 lost yards, leading to many third-and-long situations — not to mention the penalties the Bengals declined. But that doesn’t mean a lost season. It’s redeemable.

Courtney Cronin recently reported that Garrett Bradbury felt the offensive penalties are “very correctable” and are the primary emphasis for the offense this week. Unfortunately for Bradbury, he earned the lowest PFF grade on the Vikings’ line on Sunday, but it doesn’t mean he and the rest of his unit can’t improve.

It’s safe to say the Vikings would have won if they hadn’t committed so many errors in the first half of Sunday’s game. They should’ve won regardless, but they almost certainly would have earned a victory without the penalties. And being 1-0 right now would’ve been the head start they needed with every other NFC North team being winless.

Right now, the Packers are at the bottom of the NFC North barrel. It’s ironic considering that Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams posted matching Instagram stories of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin right before the season. Was it implying this season was their last dance? Well, it’s not off to a hot start.

Rodgers looked muddled in the game against the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville. He suffered the worst loss of his career, hardly looking like the same player the Vikings are used to facing twice a year. And given their offseason turmoil, he and the Packers may not be able to turn it around.

It was interesting to see Jordan Love fill in during garbage time. He looked okay in his limited action but didn’t show enough to suggest he could take over.

In a different way, the Detroit Lions game was another surprise. They had a rough three quarters but nearly staged a 24-point comeback against the San Francisco 49ers in the last two minutes. They were down 28 at one point and only lost 41-33.

It’s impressive considering they have a first-year head coach and were projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFC. If this is an indication of who they are, they may steal a couple of games and be a factor in the division.

However, most of their scoring was done in garbage time. Yes, the final score looked close, but it just felt flukey if you actually watched it. It’s still impressive they were able to score 16 points in 1:53 to close out the game. They were just one touchdown and a two-point conversion away from OT on their final drive.

Even though Detroit played better than expected last week, the Chicago Bears may be the most intriguing team in the NFC North. Chicago lost to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football, and it wasn’t really close. But the Bears are a team to look out for on the horizon because of their backup quarterback, Justin Fields, whom the Vikings reportedly wanted to draft.

Fields only took five snaps for two completions, though he could also run in a touchdown. Bears head coach Matt Nagy clearly sees that Fields is ready to play in certain offense packages, so how long until he starts?

Andy Dalton had a poor game against the Rams, but L.A. has the two best defensive players in the league, and the Bears don’t have many weapons on offense outside of David Montgomery and Allen Robinson (when he shows up to play).

The Bears could very well be the best team in the NFC North if Fields ends up starting before it’s too late to make a run this season, so the Vikings need to get hot fast. And that’s a tall task considering the matchups they have in the coming weeks.

In Week 2, the Vikings face the Arizona Cardinals, who looked spectacular against the Tennessee Titans in their season opener. All you need to know is that Kyler Murray accounted for five touchdowns, and Chandler Jones racked up five sacks against Taylor Lewan and Co., who’s a much more highly touted left tackle than … *checks notes* … Rashod Hill.

Week 3 will bring the Seattle Seahawks to Minnesota. They are the fourth-highest team on the NFL’s official power ranking. Then it’s the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. The Kansas City Chiefs just barely scraped out a win over the Browns, who have become a force in the AFC under old friend Kevin Stefanski.

The Vikings will need to make up for lost time if they want to take the lead in the division, but they have been given a buffer thanks to all three other NFC North teams losing. Right now, they are technically still the leaders in the division.

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