One Particular Vikings Game Will Be Bellwether Event

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One week ago, the 2023 NFL schedule dropped, with the Minnesota Vikings playing nine road games, eight at home, and five primetime showdowns.

One Particular Vikings Game Will Be Bellwether Event

Here’s the full shebang:

  • Week 1: Buccaneers (9/10)
  • Week 2: at Eagles (9/14, TNF)
  • Week 3: Chargers (9/24)
  • 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)
    Home Games in Red

And while every game will be meaningful, one particular game is a super-indicator of just how good Kevin O’Connell’s team can be in his sequel season — at home versus the San Francisco 49ers on October 23rd.

Here’s why.

The Quality of Opponent

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Sometimes in a normal NFL season, it takes a while for the 49ers to get cooking. In 2021, for example, head coach Kyle Shanahan even very briefly encountered a warm seat — not quite a hot seat — in October and November. But that was utterly foolish because Shanahan is a masterful coach (one born in Minneapolis).

Indeed, Minnesota takes on the Eagles, Chargers, Chiefs, and Bengals in 2023 — in addition to the NFC North opponent slate — but San Francisco poses an NFC Championship-worthy test. The 49ers quarterback won’t be gangbusters like Patrick Mahomes or Jalen Hurts, but it’s a safe bet that Sam Darnold, Brock Purdy, or Trey Lance will perform adeptly.

You’ll start to know how good the 2023 Vikings can be vis-a-vis the Week 7 bout with a quality NFC opponent like San Francisco.

The Timing

Will Be Bellwether
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A Week 7 matchup, fans and pundits will have six games of Vikings sample size heading into 49ers week. Based on the schedule construction, folks may throw a parade if the Vikings are 3-3. Yet, in Week 7, everyone will have a reasonable indicator of the Vikings spine. If they’re 2-5, well, the Caleb Williams sweepstakes will be in full force. A 5-2 record would generate Super Bowl buzz.

Squaring off against the 49ers with a chunky six games under the Vikings belt is a wonderful time to test mettle. Another example — if the Vikings get beat down by the Eagles in Week 2 [again], no one will really care because “it’s only Week 2” talkers will circulate, perhaps even from this website and author.

Still, a win or loss in Week 7 is a different animal. The season should be taking shape.

Monday Night Football — at Home

Vikings Allegedly Said
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The granddaddy of them all for this bellwether event is time and venue.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is frequently savaged for Monday Night Football performance, a stale talker because he personally has never been a problem in such games. His team, on the other hand, is a different story. VikingsTerritory’s Janik Eckardt detailed Cousins’ primetime stats on Twitter this week:

Cousins’ Vikings are a .500 football team in primetime games since the start of 2019, and in fact, Minnesota’s problem in primetime far exceeds Cousins’ tenure with the club. From 2000 to 2017 — so, 18 seasons before Cousins — the Vikings fired up a 21-31 (.404) record at night, or the 12th-worst mark in the NFL. Still, Cousins foots the bill with anything rotten regarding primetime.

Regardless of false Cousins-themed narratives, the Vikings must take care of business on national television for one reason — the game is at home. And that’s at home versus a good team, with about two months of the regular season already in the rearview.

This is the bellwether game.

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