The 3 Most Surprising Vikings Stats So Far in 2023

Vikings 2023
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The Minnesota Vikings have five games to close out the 2023 regular season and must finish 3-2 among the matchups to reach the postseason.

A record less than 3-2 will have the team watching scoreboards in Weeks 17 and 18.

The 3 Most Surprising Vikings Stats So Far in 2023

The journey has been a rollercoaster, as Minnesota started the season with three losses, later won five straight, and recently lost two consecutively. The franchise is 6-6 at the moment, with a 59% probability of reaching the playoffs, per ESPN.

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

Along the way, the Vikings have tabulated some surprising stats, good and bad. These are those ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most surprising).

3. Least Penalized Team in Football

Stats So Far
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Through 12 games, the Vikings average 37 penalty yards per game, which ranks fewest (or best) in the NFL. After Minnesota, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars (38.8 penalty yards per game) and Las Vegas Raiders (40.6). The worst in the business include Seattle Seahawks (67.3), Dallas Cowboys (63.6), and Arizona Cardinals (60.0).

And how the Vikings play football — nearly every game is a slow-burn thriller barrelling down to the wire — maintaining a low penalty mark is crucial, if not essential.

Minnesota is a disciplined ball club per penalties. For example, the Vikings are the only team in the sport without an unnecessary roughness infraction this season. If that’s not an immediate jinx, that’s pretty damn commendable.

Most fans didn’t think the team would struggle with penalties, but few forecasted a best-in-the-league status.

2. Second Worst in Giveaways

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The Vikings started 2023 with more turnovers than a bakery, fixed the problem for a few weeks, and are now back to ground zero. Joshua Dobbs enjoyed a Minnesota honeymoon and then regressed in Weeks 11 and 12, mainly because of flummoxing turnovers.

Last year, Minnesota ranked 13th in fewest giveaways. The year before that, in 2021, the Vikings led the NFL in fewest fumbles lost and interceptions.

Now they rank 31st via the metric. Only the Cleveland Browns give the ball away more to opponents. If Kevin O’Connell’s team wants to reach the postseason — they have to finish 3-2 in the next five games to basically guarantee a spot — it has to stop the fumbles and picks. That’s all there is to it.

1. Top 8 Defense

Aspect of Vikings
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In 2022, the Vikings ranked 31st in yards allowed, 30th in points allowed, and 27th via defensive DVOA.

One year later, the club ranks 13th in yards allowed, 8th in points allowed, and 9th in DVOA. What a turnaround. Hiring Brian Flores as defensive coordinator in February really did the trick. Some believed it would take longer than one offseason, but that was false.

Minnesota is only in the playoff hunt because its defense suddenly became stifling. Even the most cheerful Vikings optimists pegged a defensive improvement of possibly 16th or so in the NFL.

Nope, this brand of Vikings has a Top 8 defense per EPA/Play after 12 games.

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