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Should the Vikings now be NFC North favorites?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

If you went back to the start of the NFL season and told Vikings fans that their favorite team would be 3-1 heading into the week five matchup vs. the Chicago Bears, many fans would’ve been elated. It’s a new season, with new schemes on both sides of the ball, and a lot of kinks to potentially work out. They’ve gotten to this point through some sloppy play and daunting defenses, but have still battled against adversity and found ways to win. Which is a typically an indicator for a good team. So, given the Vikings’ 3-1 start, should they now be NFC North favorites? There are good reasons to back up that idea.

The Schedule

Through four weeks of the season, the Vikings have the 13th hardest schedule in the NFL and the hardest in the NFC North, according to Pro Football Focus. But even with the 13th hardest schedule, the Vikings find themselves first in the NFC North and second in the NFC, only behind the Philadelphia Eagles (their only loss). So how does this make them the new favorites of the NFC North? Well, they are 3-1, and their remaining schedule is ranked as the 3rd easiest for the remainder of the year. In addition to the easiest schedule, the Vikings are already off to a 2-0 record at home and within the division.

The Offense

When Kevin O’Connell was hired, the assumption was that we were going to get a similar offense to the LA Rams. Through four weeks, we’ve yet to see that. But something to keep in mind is that this is an entirely new offensive scheme for not only Kirk Cousins, but for most of these players. For the past handful of years, this Vikings offense has been a Kubiak-style offense in some form or another. Now it’s a whole new system with many different variations to fully digest.

If the Vikings can continue to work through the early struggles of learning a new system and still rack up wins. Just imagine what this team will look like when they put it all together.

The Competition

I’m using this portion just to call out the NFC North. As it stands today, the Vikings are 2-0 in the division and tied with Green Bay for first in the NFC North. Despite this, the Vikings hold the tiebreaker because they defeated Green Bay in Week 1. Green Bay will undoubtedly give the Vikings the biggest run for their money as it pertains to being NFC North favorites. They’ve “struggled” out of the gates on defense, which is surprising given that it was supposed to be elite this season (it still could). But they also have a reigning MVP for QB, and since he took over at QB, they’ve won the division eight times and made the playoffs 11 times.

For the Lions and Bears, they’ve started off just about as you’d expect. The Bears, are in full rebuild mode. They surprised the 49ers in Week 1, which may have been due to field conditions and weather rather than actual talent, but they are unlikely to pose a threat to the Vikings. Meanwhile, the Lions are proving that they are a scrappy team that just hasn’t quite figured out how to close games. Neither of these teams will be fighting for the North at the end of the season.

Conclusion

The Vikings have racked up wins through the first portion of the season and have a real good chance to be 4-1 after this weekend with one of the easiest schedules remaining in the NFL. And while the offense is still a work in progress, when it’s mattered most, that unit has stepped up and delivered when they need to. They’ve faced adversity early and often this season and have come out on top. It certainly hasn’t been pretty, but good teams find a way to win, and if the Vikings maintain this, there is no reason they can’t win the NFC North.