Vikings Need to Copy an Example from Recent NFL History

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) watches as T.Y. Hilton (13) catches a touchdown pass in the second half of their game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Oct 21, 2018. The Colts defeated the Bills 37-5. © Matt Kryger/IndyStar.

Around the time Kirk Cousins arrived in Minneapolis, another NFL team embarked on a season with a first-year head coach and quarterback who, in hindsight, would be playing his final season.

Vikings Need to Copy an Example from Recent NFL History

That club was the 2018 Indianapolis Colts, led by head coach Frank Reich and quarterback Andrew Luck, sputtering out of the gate in the regular season and appearing dead in the water with a 1-5 record through six games.

Vikings Need to Copy
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

Luck’s Colts were dismissed as turnover-riddled buffoons that couldn’t get the offense and defense working simultaneously, looking like an extreme longshot to reach the postseason and, more realistically, in line to perhaps draft Nick Bosa in a few months.

Then, Indianapolis decided it wasn’t going to take it anymore in its best Dee Snyder cover and started winning games. Some three months later, it toppled the Houston Texans in Round 1 of the postseason and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs a week later in Patrick Mahomes’ first playoff game.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich watches the action on the field against the Houston Texans in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. Indianapolis Colts Face The Houston Texans On Sunday, Dec 9, 2018. © Matt Kryger/IndyStar.

For context, this is how the first six weeks went for the Colts in 2018:

  • vs. CIN = Loss, 34-23
  • at WAS = Win, 21-9
  • at PHI = Loss, 20-16
  • vs. HOU = Loss, 37-34
  • at NE = Loss, 38-24
  • at NYJ = Loss, 42-34

And the Colts rankings through Week 6:

  • Offense EPA/Play = 23rd
  • Defense EPA/Play = 20th
  • Turnovers/Giveaways = 32nd
  • Rush EPA/Play = 26th
  • Andrew Luck EPA+CPOE = 22nd
John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports.

The early 2018 Colts created turnovers like a bakery, and not in a good way. The offense and defense didn’t click, and the Frank Reich hire looked silly. The ground game was laughable. And any “maybe they’ll turn it around” jargon sounded like a conspiracy theory.

But then they flipped the script.

This is how the rest of the season played out:

  • vs. BUF = Win, 37-5
  • at OAK = Win, 42-28
  • vs. JAX = Win, 29-26
  • vs. TEN = Win, 38-10
  • vs. MIA = Win, 27-24
  • at JAX = Loss, 6-0
  • at HOU = Win, 24-21
  • vs. DAL = Win, 23-0
  • vs. NYG = Win, 28-27
  • at TEN = Win, 33-17
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

So, for the 2023 Vikings, Kevin O’Connell and Co. have a slight leg up on the 2018 Colts. Minnesota is 2-4 through six games, whereas Indianapolis was 1-5. The Colts seemed to have enough roster talent for a frisky playoff push, but nothing was working or interconnected.

These are the Vikings metrics compared to the 2018 Colts above:

  • Offense EPA/Play = 18th
  • Defense EPA/Play = 16th
  • Turnovers/Giveaways = 32nd
  • Rush EPA/Play = 22nd
  • Kirk Cousins EPA+CPOE = 13th

What’s more, after the Vikings get over the hump of Monday Night Football in five days, the schedule absolutely opens up. Minnesota plays the Packers, Falcons, Saints, Broncos, Bears, and Raiders thereafter before returning to opponents like the Lions (twice) and the Bengals.

There’s precedent for Minnesota to fix the 2-4 record, and it wasn’t that long ago.


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.