Predicting the future for Vikings, Gophers as football season begins

With the Vikings beginning training camp this week, this will be the last weekend of the year without football.
What should we expect from Minnesota's two most prominent football teams in 2023?
If the Vikings and Gophers find a way to match their 2022 regular season records, their coaches should win many awards.
Minnesota Vikings
— 2022 regular season: 13-4.
— Postseason: Lost in the first round at home to the New York Giants, 31-24.
Reasons for optimism:
The NFC North again looks weak.
This will be the first time Kirk Cousins will play under the same offensive coaches for a second consecutive year since 2016.
Head coach Kevin O'Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah are coming off their first full offseason, and they replaced Ed Donatell at defensive coordinator with the highly-regarded Brian Flores, who should make the Vikings' defense much more aggressive and much less predictable.
First-round draft pick Jordan Addison will give the Vikings a dynamic receiving corps including superstar Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill are becoming one of the best sets of tackles in the NFL, and center Garrett Bradbury improved last season.
Cousins looked more like a leader and clutch performer than ever before in 2022.
The Vikings' two top draft picks in 2022 — safety Lewis Cine and cornerback Andrew Booth — should win starting jobs after missing most of last year with injuries.
Reasons for pessimism:
Addison was arrested for driving 140 mph on I-94 last week, and he missed practice time earlier this summer with an undisclosed injury.
While the Vikings are making a sound business decision in moving on from star running back Dalvin Cook, that doesn't mean that they'll be able to replace his big plays — and his big plays made the difference in about five games last year.
The Vikings went 13-4 despite being outscored by three points over the course of the season. If they regress in close games, they'll have trouble reaching double-digit victories again.
Flores is a quality coach, but he can't be sure how his cornerbacks or pass rush will perform. Star defensive end Danielle Hunter wants a new contract, and Hunter and the departed Za'Darius Smith were the keys to the Vikings' pass rush last season.
My view:
The Vikings could be a better, more well-rounded team this season and not reach 13 victories. Call it 11-6, with another division title and another first-round playoff loss.
Minnesota Gophers
— 2022 regular season: 8-4 overall; 5-4 in the Big Ten
— Postseason: Defeated Syracuse 28-20 in the Pinstripe Bowl
Reasons for optimism:
The Gophers have won nine or more games in three of the last four seasons (they went 3-4 in the shortened 2020 season) and coach P.J. Fleck is 4-0 in bowl games.
Quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis is a big, rangy athlete who, in his last two starts, led the Gophers to victories over Wisconsin and Syracuse.
Tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford should be a star, and a comfort to his young quarterback.
Safety Tyler Nubin could be a star, and Cody Lindenberg should be the next in a long line of standout linebackers.
Fleck has found a way to run the ball effectively regardless of personnel changes during his time in Minnesota.
Reasons for pessimism:
Last year the Gophers didn't have to play Michigan or Ohio State, yet went on a three-game losing streak during the middle of the season that ended any chance of a special season. This year, the Gophers could start 5-0, but then they will face Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who is recovering from a torn ACL, hasn't been cleared for football activity.
Stars Mo Ibrahim (running back) and John Michael Schmitz (center) will be missed.
My view:
The Gophers had the advantage of a soft schedule last fall and a remarkably veteran roster, and went 5-4 in the Big Ten. Facing Michigan and Ohio State without Ibrahim and Schmitz will make this a more difficult season. The pick here is a 7-5 finish in the regular season.

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