Charley Walters: For Vikings, it’s either playoffs or a 2023 rebuild

How the Minnesota Vikings play this season will determine what they’ll do in 2023.

If new coach Kevin O’Connell can turn around a team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and win, say, 10 games and a playoff berth, owners Zygi and Mark Wilf should feel good about building for the immediate future.

Charley WaltersBut just six or seven victories could cause ownership to decide it’s finally time to rebuild, as are the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears in the division. That could mean ushering out high-paid veterans and replacing them with younger players. That could also mean trying to unload QB Kirk Cousins, 34, and his $36 million contract, if he’s still marketable, and gambling on a QB in the first round of next April’s draft.

Barring an unforeseen collapse, O’Connell and first-year GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will get at least three years to make the Vikings a contender. The Vikings are still paying fired coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman this year and next year. Those deals total about $11 million a year.

Since the 2010 season, an EmpireStakes.com analysis of 49 first-year NFL head coaches (without any previous NFL head coaching experience) shows an average first-season won-loss record of 6-10, with just 22.4 percent making the playoffs.

The Packers in Sunday afternoon’s season opener against the Vikings will emphasize running the ball with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. That should make it interesting for the Vikings’ new three-man defensive line.

Despite the offensive-minded O’Connell, the strength of the Vikings is still going to be running the ball to loosen the defense to pass to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Dalvin Cook remains among the top five running backs in the NFL.

New wideout Jalen Reagor, 23, signed for two years, if the Vikings can unlock his potential, could be the eventual replacement for Thielen, 32. But his short-term role is punt returns.

It’s imperative that Vikings pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith remain healthy — they have no reliable backups. The Vikings also remain thin on size in the defensive line, and it’s still surprising they didn’t try to re-sign Sheldon Richardson or another large body.

Cheapest tickets available for Sunday’s Vikings-Packers game are $118; most expensive $1,046, per gametime.com.

Average Vikings home ticket price this season is $108.79. The Packers’ average, $128.93, per olbg.com.

Vikings followers will spend an average of $51.70 per person on food during games this season, regardless of where they’re viewed, with pizza the favorite purchase, per a survey by usbetting.org. Miami Dolphins fans spend the most, an average of $79.80 per game.

The Packers’ Lambeau Field ranks No. 1 among fan reviews of the world’s most iconic sports stadiums. The Twins’ Target Field is No. 10, per betsperts.com. The Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field is No. 6, the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park No. 15.

The Packers, by the way, recently reported record revenue of nearly $600 million for the previous 12 months.

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