3 X-Factor Players for Vikings Down the Stretch of 2023

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The Minnesota Vikings own a 6-6 record after 13 weeks, possessing a 49% chance of reaching the postseason, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

3 X-Factor Players for Vikings Down the Stretch of 2023

Five wins will likely put Minnesota atop the NFC North once again. Four wins is a ticket to the No. 6 seed. Three wins is probably good enough for the playoff afterparty, assuming the Seattle Seahawks lose a couple of games. One or two wins will disqualify the purple team from the dance.

And if the Vikings prefer entry into the postseason, these three x-factor players — or unsung contributors — can contribute.

Players for Vikings Down
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They’re ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important).

3. K.J. Osborn (WR)

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Osborn generally has one signature game in a season or at least a couple of clutch moments. So far, those are missing in 2023. He’s due — overdue.

Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson returns this weekend, guaranteed to plow receiving lanes for Jordan Addison and his pal, Osborn. Osborn should be open more often, and if Joshua Dobbs can deliver the ball accurately and in a timely manner, Osborn can have one of his big games.

The fourth-year Viking is also in a contract year, so these next five games could be a wrap for his career in purple. He’ll want to go out with a bang and hope to secure a large contract with the Vikings or somewhere in four months.

Jefferson and Addison put butts in seats, but don’t forget about Osborn as the unsung WR3.

2. D.J. Wonnum (OLB)

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Wonnum has morphed from a player who only really plays well against the Chicago Bears — for some reason — into a starting EDGE rusher. And a productive one.

The soon-to-be free agent is on pace to notch 8.5 sacks in 2023, a rather respectable stat for a man labeled as a reservist defender when the season started. Too, Wonnum can be credited with saving Minnesota’s season, scampering for a touchdown in Week 4 at the Carolina Panthers. The Vikings were 0-3 at this moment, on track to lose to the Panthers, and basically die at 0-4. But then Wonnum did this:

Minnesota needs more plays like this down the stretch for Wonnum, especially with Marcus Davenport’s return from IR a total mystery.

1. Ty Chandler (RB)

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The Vikings’ rushing attacks stinks. There is no sugarcoating it.

If the franchise wants to shimmy into the postseason and make some noise, Ty Chandler must bust out into at least a mini-degree of stardom. Vikings fans have seen 12 games worth of Alexander Mattison as RB1, and he’s best suited for RB2, a job he filled for four years behind Dalvin Cook.

Chandler may not become a showstopping Pro Bowler, but for Minnesota’s offense’s sake, Chandler must average 4-5 yards per carry.

Teams cannot go anywhere in the postseason if they run the ball like clowns.


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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