Former Viking Produces MNF Masterclass

Bengals fans cheer as the Bengals take the lead over the Jaguars at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida Monday, December 4, 2023. © Cara Owsley/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Cincinnati Bengals have a 12.7% chance of reaching the playoffs this season, per ESPN, odds that actually increased after Monday Night Football, believe it or not.

Before Week 13, Cincinnati’s hopes of participating in the postseason were laughable, mainly because Joe Burrow was out for the season, and folks didn’t expect much from his backup.

Former Viking Produces MNF Masterclass

Well, at least for a week, that backup produced a masterclass against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and his name is Jake Browning, a former Minnesota Viking.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) calls a play during the third quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-31 in overtime. © Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Browning was bonzer and brilliant under the lights of primetime, leading the Burrowless Bengals to a 34-31 overtime triumph on the road, with a statline that would make Patrick Mahomes or Burrow himself blush. The veteran passer completed 32 of 37 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown, an incredibly efficient and productive performance for anybody, not just “some backup.”

Cincinnati has a long way to go via reaching the playoffs — it has a 6-6 record in the stacked AFC — but winning at the Jaguars salvaged the season.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

“Once the game gets going and he’s completing balls like he is, it gives you the confidence, let’s just keep dialing this thing up. He probably found a lot of completions in the run game, too. I bet he had six or seven completions on runs where he just took the RPOs (run-pass options) off that thing. So it was a good day for everybody on offense,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said about the schematics of Browning’s marvelous evening.

Browning joined the Vikings in April 2019 via undrafted free agency and remained with the club for two and half years, mostly on the practice squad. At Washington in college, he performed admirably, even diming 43 touchdowns to just 9 picks in the 2016 campaign.

During his Viking stint, Browning battled for the “other” quarterback spot, usually at QB3 or QB4, with some assortment of Sean Mannion, Kyle Sloter, and Kellen Mond. In fact, when Cousins and Mond fell ill with the coronavirus in the summer of 2021, Browning took the reins of the Vikings offense in a night scrimmage at training camp and turned heads. Some even believed he played well enough to secure a QB2 job, but later, the aforementioned Mannion swooped in for the gig. Browning was waived soon after.

What Does Jake
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

Cincinnati signed Browning a week after his Vikings exodus, where he predominantly lived on the practice squad until this season. Burrow battled a summer injury, too, and some expected Browning to get the nod in Week 1. But Burrow rallied and played to start the season before succumbing to a wrist injury on November 16th.

Now, it’s the Browning show — indefinitely.

Produces MNF
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) throws a pass during the Cincinnati Bengals fan day practice at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, July 29, 2023. © Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

“It’s been a long time since I won a game,” Browning told reporters after he helped the Bengals topple Jacksonville.

And don’t look now, but Browning will have the chance to settle some scores in 11 days. His Bengals take on his old Vikings on December 16th at Paycor Stadium. If Cincinnati takes care of business this weekend at home against the Indianapolis Colts, Bengals-Vikings in Week 15 could be two teams desperately vying for a Wildcard playoff spot.

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