With the Minnesota Vikings season coming to a close following the Week 18 regular-season finale, the off-season has been in full swing since that point as the organization shifts its focus to a new year. After the Vikings parted ways with head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman right after the season concluded, Minnesota hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to take over as general manager and Kevin O’Connell as their new head coach (though an official announcement regarding O’Connell will have to wait until after the Super Bowl since he is the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator). But this off-season the Vikings have things they could learn.
Off-Season for Minnesota Vikings Should Include Learning From Super Bowl LVI Teams
Even though the Vikings are looking beyond the 2021 NFL season, two teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals who will battle for the league title in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles are still wrapping up their seasons. As the Rams and Bengals square off in the big game, there are some things Minnesota can learn from those teams while approaching the off-season and the 2022 campaign.
Let Playmakers Make Plays
When it comes to teams finding success on a weekly basis, one of the most important things that need to take place is having playmakers step up when called upon. For both Cincinnati and Los Angeles, their stars have continued to make plays, especially when it matters most, en route to a Super Bowl appearance. The Vikings need to focus on allowing their playmakers to do just that — make plays.
More often than not in the 2021 season, it almost seemed like the Vikings coaching staff held back the offense from showcasing its firepower and big-play capabilities, oftentimes appearing to play not to lose rather than playing to win. And when the Vikings defense did not perform well, that was a recipe for disaster that ended in late-game and one-possession losses far too often.
The Bengals have allowed players like Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, and others to open things up and showcase their play-making abilities. That has turned into Cincinnati featuring a balanced offense that can go toe-to-toe with any other offense in the NFL.
The Rams have the likes of Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr. and others who can take a game over at any moment, and their offense has continued to be one of the more feared units in the league. Of course, it helps when a team has a defense as talented as the Rams, but no matter what, Los Angeles has not been afraid to let their playmakers step on the gas offensively.
Minnesota should take a page out of the playbooks of Cincinnati and Los Angeles — granted the Vikings might already be trying to do that after reportedly hiring Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as their head coach — and apply that to the offensive game plan moving forward.
Strong Offense, Solid Defense Can Be Successful
Cincinnati and Los Angeles are somewhat similar teams on both sides of the ball, as both feature a strong offense and a solid, middle-of-the-road defense. That recipe is one that Minnesota should follow moving forward rather than strictly focusing on the defense as has been the case over the last few years.
On offense, the Bengals ranked 13th in the NFL in total yards per game (361.5) and tied for seventh in points per contest (27.1) during the regular season. They countered that by ranking 18th in the league in yards allowed (350.8) and 17th in points allowed per game (22.1).
The Rams offense ranked ninth in the league in yards per game (372.1) and also tied for seventh in points per game (27.1) in 17 regular-season contests. On defense, Los Angeles ranked 17th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (344.9) and tied for 15th in points allowed a game (21.9).
Minnesota has the capability to showcase and feature a lot of the same characteristics that both Cincinnati and Los Angeles possess. A strong offensive unit to go along with a decent defense should be something the Vikings strive to include on a weekly basis in 2022.
A Rebound Season Is Possible
One of the more remarkable storylines that has taken place this season is the success of the Bengals. Cincinnati has not only been an underdog throughout the postseason, but it has also seen an impressive rebounding season from that of a year ago.
In 2019, the Bengals finished just 2-14 at the bottom of the NFL standings which resulted in them receiving the first overall pick in the following draft. After taking Burrow with that pick, Cincinnati followed that brutal year with a 4-14-1 campaign in 2021, though they did lose Burrow for the season to a knee injury. This season, however, the Bengals completely turned things around and now find themselves in the big game with a championship on the line.
Cincinnati finished the 2021 regular season with a record of 10-7 and claimed the AFC North title for the first time since 2015. The Bengals then followed that up by continuing to win in the playoffs when many thought they wouldn’t. Now, they have one more opponent standing in the way of the Super Bowl crown. Cincinnati has shown the entire NFL a rebound season and a quick turnaround is possible, something Minnesota will try to do next year.
Although the Vikings are not taking part in the Super Bowl this weekend, there are still plenty of things they can take from the teams squaring off in preparation for the new year in 2022.