Sunday’s Winning Formula Is Pretty Uncomplicated for Vikings

do the right thing
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The 6-6 Minnesota Vikings travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders for the first time since they moved to Nevada in 2020. It will be a rematch of Super Bowl XI, a game that featured legendary head coaches John Madden and Bud Grant. The Raiders have a 5-7 record so the game is crucial for the playoff probability of both franchises.

Sunday’s Winning Formula Is Pretty Uncomplicated for Vikings

Winning Formula Is Pretty Uncomplicated for Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings want to clinch the playoff spot in consecutive years for the first time since 2008 and 2009. After dropping the last two contests, the Vikings have lost all their leeway as they are currently one of five NFC teams with a 6-6 record, fighting for the two remaining wild card spots with the Cowboys likely getting the third.

The 2023 Vikings are pretty easy to understand. They have played well to win each one of their 12 games but made too many crucial mistakes in half of them, leading directly to six losses. In all six defeats, the Vikings managed to lose the turnover battle.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

O’Connell’s team is 16-0 in his tenure when at least tying the turnover battle. The blueprint every week is easy. Don’t turn the ball over and win the game. It’s as straightforward as that. In 2023, the Vikings are 1-6 when they lose in the turnover column and 5-0 when they win.

After all six losses, turnovers were the main taking point and the point of emphasis all week but they couldn’t fix their struggles after the previous five defeats. It remains to be seen if they have learned to take care of the ball in the bye week.

One of the wrongdoers in the last two games — the losses against the Broncos and the Bears — was quarterback Joshua Dobbs. The veteran had to replace Kirk Cousins rather quickly after his acquisition from Arizona. He started with some significant turnovers but managed to pull off a pair of impressive and unexpected victories with incredible plays.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

But that magic dwindled and his struggles clearly outweighed the positive. A lost fumble (three total) and a pick in Denver and four interceptions in the following week were the reason for the eventual quarterback controversy in the state of Minnesota. O’Connell made it sound as if a change was possible if not even likely but the team has eventually stuck with Dobbs.

It is on him to prove the coaching staff right after a couple of weeks of added practice. That should help him get more comfortable within the offense and everyone involved has stated that they made some tweaks in the scheme to highlight Dobbs’ strengths rather than his weaknesses. Of course, having Justin Jefferson back in the huddle is also a massive help for the quarterback.

Dobbs has the skill set to be an improviser, someone who can escape the pocket, and make plays with his feet as a true running threat but he can also find teammates on the run. However, that chaotic backyard football tendency leads to some crucial mistakes. Taking care of the football should be his priority over trying to play hero ball. Only if Dobbs can find the right balance between the two aspects, the Vikings will be a serious team going forward.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

His teammates must also do their jobs. There is barely a ball carrier that hasn’t fumbled the ball away. In addition to that, the turnover ratio can only be won if the defense makes some plays. They rank 16th in takeaways while the offense ranks 31st in turnovers. The Raiders have three fewer turnovers on offense but have forced two fewer takeaways on defense. Both teams rank in the bottom five of the league in turnover differential. It will be a deciding factor on Sunday.

The Vikings have turned the ball over 17 times in the six losses and generated four takeaways on defense. On the flip side, they have given the ball away only seven times in the six wins and forced 12 takeaways. The conclusion is easy. Hold on to the football and there’s a great chance to win the game.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt