NFC North teams performed admirably in Week 7 while the Minnesota Vikings were on a bye. Mike Zimmer’s team remains in last place within the division. All poor NFL teams played to their record during this week’s slate of games, so the Vikings would pick sixth in the 2021 NFL Draft if it was conducted early this week. But that is primarily because most bad teams have an extra loss with the Vikings having a bye week. Think “1-6 is worse than 1-5.”
Minnesota had a terrible game versus the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6. For their situation at the time, the game was paramount for a season turnaround. Instead, the contest was symbiotic for its 2020 season. Expectations by fans and some pundits were lofty as Atlanta was winless and had recently terminated its head coach. The Falcons waltzed on the field with something to prove and pummeled the Vikings from the onset. Turnovers were forced, Matt Ryan orchestrated big plays, and the Vikings defense was woefully unprepared to stop Todd Gurley and the Dirty Bird wide receivers.
Thus, the Vikings entered their bye disappointed and owners of a bleak prognosis for the remainder of the season. The drawing board is even more muddled – Minnesota must travel to Green Bay during Week 8 to square off against a Packers team that just trounced the Houston Texans on the road. Eviscerating Houston is not much of an accomplishment in 2020, but the Packers were anxious to rebound after a shellacking in Tampa Bay during Week 6.
Early betting lines foreshadow the Packers toppling the Vikings by seven points, which is somewhat tight considering the Packer are 5-1 and the Vikings are 1-5. As we know, though, NFC North matchups have a different vibe.
Overall, how the Vikings fare under Zimmer after bye weeks?
Under Zimmer – not good
For a short takeaway, the Vikings do not play well exiting bye weeks under Mike Zimmer. With a 2-4 win-loss record since 2014, Minnesota is underwater. In Zimmer’s maiden voyage, the Vikings traveled to Chicago for a 21-13 versus the Bears – an anemic offensive night at Soldier Field. The following season, Minnesota hosted Kansas City and down the Chiefs before Andy Reid’s team would totally revitalize its 1-5 season. In 2016, Zimmer’s team utterly collapsed after the bye week. During the 2017 season, almost everything went right. And in the last two seasons, the Vikings have lost to the Bears in 2018 and the Seahawks in 2019 – both away games.
Schedule makers have been unkind to Minnesota following bye weeks as of late. All of the after-bye losses for Zimmer’s bunch have occurred on the road, and the opposing team is typically a formidable foe.
This year is no different as the team crosses state lines to face its most bitter rival – one that that has lost just one game in 2020.
When They Do Win, It’s a Streak
The sunshine-and-rainbows approach off bye weeks for the Vikings: When they do win, they embark on a lengthy winning streak.
In 2015, Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings encountered thebye with a 2-2 record at Week 5. Flash forward to mid-November and Minnesota was 7-2 after a win over the Raiders in Oakland. That’s right – the victory over Andy Reid’s embattled Chiefs sent both teams on to win streaks. Both teams’ seasons were completely resuscitated; both teams won their respective divisions. Of course, though, the 2-2 Vikings of 2015 are a markedly different animal than this 1-5 team of 2020.
During Zimmer’s fourth season, 2017, the purple and gold triumphantly waltzed into their bye week with a record of 6-2. The prosperity continued after the week off. Case Keenum and the Vikings would win four additional contests before falling to the Panthers in Week 14 – their second-to-last loss of the year.
If history is any indicator, when Zimmer’s Vikings win following the bye, it’s the start of a trend.
This Year is a Different Animal
Whether the Vikings are capable of spearheading a long winning streak in 2020 is both undetermined and unlikely. After coming within mere inches of upsetting the high-flying Seahawks in Week 5, Minnesota seemed to belong in conversations with good teams, at least the one-game sample suggested so.
Then, Minnesota laid an egg at home against the horrid Falcons – who were not so horrid after all. The Vikings would need to erase performances against the Packers, Colts, and Falcons from their memories in Men-In-Black fashion to explore a win streak.
General manager Rick Spielman traded one of his best players on defense, Yannick Ngakoue, this week. So, there is a sense that perhaps even leadership knows this campaign is unmemorable and lost.
One thing is for certain: If Minnesota had any visions of grandeur than entailed a playoff appearance in 2020 after this 1-5 start, an extended winning streak is a fundamental requirement. It’s mathematics at this point.