Vikings Fans Have Rare Moment of Total Uncertainty

Playoffs
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

When a quarterback like Kirk Cousins anchors a franchise for 5.5 seasons, forecasting the product on any given Sunday is a somewhat seamless task.

Vikings Fans Have Rare Moment of Total Uncertainty

Of course, in recent seasons, most Minnesota Vikings games go down to the wire, starting in the 2020 season with Mike Zimmer at the helm, followed by the same tendencies in 2021, and then just more suspense thrillers in 2022 and 2023 under Kevin O’Connell.

During the early part of the Zimmer era, close games were actually a relative rarity, but that all strangely changed at the dawn of the 2020 season. Therefore, on a given weekend, there has been a general familiarity with the Vikings’ product vis-a-vis stability with Cousins at QB1, a close game on the way, and we shall see which team prevails.

Have Rare Moment
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, that “what to expect” is toast, especially heading into Week 14 at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Why? Well, two reasons:

  1. The QB1’s identity is uncertain as of Tuesday morning.
  2. The team played poorly to start 2023, really well from Weeks 6-10, and unsatisfactorily again in Weeks 11-12.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports. Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) drops back to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Generalized cluelessness exists regarding Minnesota’s matchup against the Raiders. The quarterback — whoever that may be — could play wonderfully and snap the Vikings’ two-game losing skid. Or, a continuation of performances against the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears could arise, and not a single Vikings enthusiast would be surprised.

Think of it as an in-season crossroads.

The Vikings own a completely average record at 6-6, live in the NFC’s No. 6 playoff seed, and must win three of the following five games to reach the playoffs. Anything less than three wins likely disqualifies the Vikings from the playoff tournament unless teams like the Green Bay Packers or Los Angeles Rams, for example, unexpectedly and totally fade in the next five games.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell has a threeway decision at quarterback, choosing between Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and rookie Jaren Hall. That’s the first leg of cluelessness. Vikings fans haven’t experienced an honest-to-goodness in-season quarterback debate since 2013. It’s been a decade. Throughout franchise history, quarterback controversies certainly aren’t foreign, but this is the first midseason edition in 10 years.

Then — which team shows up? The club that spanked the New Orleans Saints in the 1st Half three weeks ago? How about the lowly purple team that made the Bears look clutch?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all a grand mystery that will determine the Vikings’ 2023 postseason fate. Per ESPN, Minnesota’s playoff probability resides at 49.7% entering Week 14. The odds dropped overnight Tuesday after ESPN apparently realized the Cincinnati Bengals could be good, and the Vikings play Jake Browning’s team in Week 15.

Identify the quarterback, figure out if he’s competent, and then prosper as you learn which Vikings team shows up in Sin City — the two-game-losing-streak squad or the five-game-winning-spree bunch.


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.

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