A Pile of Bad News Awaits Vikings

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday 27-20, a rollercoaster game that swung in the champs’ favor late.

Minnesota has 12 games to salvage the 2023 season and must start quickly to avoid tumbling into irrelevance.

A Pile of Bad News Awaits Vikings

And the outlook is bleak as of October 9th, with a pile of bad news awaiting the club.

1. Justin Jefferson Is Hurt

A Pile of Bad News
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year hurt his hamstring and lost his receiving yards lead all in a few hours Sunday. Here’s the play where Jefferson encountered the injury:

Hamstring injuries don’t generally heal in a few days, especially for wide receivers, and Jefferson has never missed a game in his NFL career. Minnesota would be forced to lean on Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson, among others, if Jefferson can’t play this Sunday, a daunting prognosis because the offense is so Jefferson-centric.

Jefferson could play Sunday, but it may be a safer bet that the club errs on the side of caution and rests the face of the franchise.

2. They’re 1-4.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Since 1990, when the NFL expanded the playoff format to six teams per conference — it added one more team per conference in 2020 — 234 teams have started a season with a 1-4 or 0-5 record. Just 11 squads have later reached the postseason.

Per oddsmakers, the Vikings have 21% to reach the postseason, down about 30% from the beginning of the season. Minnesota is in a nasty hole to surmount, and its style of play — too many turnovers — does not suggest it’s ready to bust out and fix everything.

3. Two Trips to Soldier and Lambeau in the Next 3 Weeks

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) celebrates following a missed field goal by New Orleans Saints placekicker Blake Grupe (19) during their football game Sunday, September 24, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers defeated the Saints 18-17. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Meanwhile, it’s noteworthy that the Vikings are kicking off their division schedule in Week 6 and Week 8, but the venues are bothersome and historically problematic.

Vikings Win-Loss Record,
Since 2000:

at Lambeau Field = 7-16-2 (.320)
at Soldier Field = 7-15 (.318)

Minnesota has enjoyed recent success in Chicago, winning three straight, but the place is generally a house of horrors, usually goofy ones. Then, two weeks later, the Vikings play at Lambeau Field — not ideal.

4. The Unstoppable 49ers in Between

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports.

And guess what? Between the Bears + Packers road endeavors, the Vikings play the best in football while hoping to snap a four-game home losing skid. It’s almost “you can’t make this stuff up” territory.

San Francisco disemboweled the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, 42-10, in a game that absolutely established the 49ers as the team to beat leaguewide. Kyle Shanahan’s team hasn’t lost a regular season game since acquiring Christian McCaffrey — like a year ago.

If Minnesota does turn this season around, it will be utterly battle-tested by the time the Week 8 game at Green Bay is in the books.

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.