0-3 Start for Vikings Feels Familiar

Sep 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings dropped a third straight game to start the season and a fourth if one counts the 2022 playoff loss versus the New York Giants.

0-3 Start for Vikings Feels Familiar

It’s the worst start imaginable for Minnesota, sans serious injuries, and the Vikings will now hope to make history in turning it around. No team in NFL history has reached the Super Bowl after an 0-3 start, and just six teams partook in playoff football games battling back from 0-3.

And if the doldrums feel familiar, well, you’ve been here before.

for Vikings Feels
Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) makes a catch in front of Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Justin Jefferson was brand new, a few months removed from joining the Vikings in the 1st Round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Vikings had lost several veterans during the 2020 offseason — Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, etc. — and held similar expectations from experts and oddsmakers between then and now.

In the latest offseason, Minnesota said goodbye to Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Duke Shelley, among others, transitioning to youth and affordability amid general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild plan.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) under center against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, the beginnings of the 2020 campaign and 2023 are the same — an 0-3 start when most fans felt the team had a reasonable expectation to gain a playoff berth or at least flirt with an NFC North title.

To start 2020, the Vikings lost these games:

vs. Green Bay (43-34)
at Indianapolis (28-11)
vs. Tennessee (31-30)

Unexpected home loss in Week 1, depressing road loss in Week 2, late-game loss to an AFC team at home in Week 3.

Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the same thing.

Dalvin Cook
Sep 27, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

If Minnesota fully leans into the 2020 nostalgia, more turmoil is afoot. That team started 1-5, with a sorrowful home loss in Week 5 to the Atlanta Falcons. But before that, it won on the road at the Houston Texans, 31-23, in Week 4.

Thereafter, the Vikings enjoyed a Week 7 bye week and won five of their next six games, restoring the season to prominence and flirting with a playoff berth. Ultimately, the club failed to earn a spot in the postseason, dampening their chances at Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14 with a 26-14 loss.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell takes the field before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

This is the remaining schedule for Minnesota, with home games in red:

  • Week 4: at Panthers (10/1)
  • Week 5: Chiefs (10/8)
  • Week 6: at Bears (10/15)
  • Week 7: 49ers (10/23, MNF)
  • Week 8: at Packers (10/29)
  • Week 9: at Falcons (11/5)
  • Week 10: Saints (11/12)
  • Week 11: at Broncos (11/19, SNF)
  • Week 12: Bears (11/27, MNF)
  • Week 13: BYE
  • Week 14: at Raiders (12/10)
  • Week 15: at Bengals (TBD)
  • Week 16: Lions (12/24)
  • Week 17: Packers (12/31, SNF)
  • Week 18: at Lions (1/7)

The Vikings could be 2-5 by Week 8 — the same record as 2020. And then the schedule opens up in terms of strength. At Green Bay won’t be easy, rest assured. But games against the Falcons, Saints, Broncos, Bears, and Raiders should be winnable if Minnesota has discovered it’s a good football team by then.

For about two months in 2020, the club got hot and played competently. A repeat could be around the bend.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.