The Vikings’ Top 3 Storylines after Bye Week

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The Minnesota Vikings will encounter back-to-back AFC road games in the next two weeks, followed by three straight NFC North matchups to wrap up the rollercoaster 2023 season.

The Vikings’ Top 3 Storylines after Bye Week

For simple math, Minnesota probably needs to finish 3-2 in the remaining games to get into the postseason; a mark less than 3-2 substantially reduces playoff aspirations, if not ends them.

The team had a bye last week and now travels to Las Vegas for a date with the Raiders on Sunday. The Vikings are favored to win by three points against Aidan O’Connell’s team.

And exiting the bye, these are the Vikings’ top three storylines, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most important).

3. Will the Run Game Get Cooking?

Storylines after Bye
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In some ways, the Vikings making the playoff tournament is great and all, but it won’t matter much if they run the football at their current clip and efficiency. It just won’t cut it against teams like the Philadelphia Eagles or San Francisco 49ers.

Here’s what Minnesota is battling and perhaps trying to fix on the fly:

Vikings’ Rushing Offense,
NFL Ranking,
Thru 13 Weeks of 2023:

Yards per Rush = 25th
Rushing Yards per Game = 28th
EPA/Play = 28th
DVOA = 29th

Those numbers are horrendous, and the Vikings must repair their ground attack to be considered a serious playoff contender. Can the club find the special sauce among Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, and Kene Nwangwu?

2. Who’s the QB?

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.

For the first time in 10 years, the Vikings have a true-blue in-season quarterback debate. Men like Josh Freeman were in the mix the last time it happened.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell will soon decide if Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, or Jaren Hall will wear the QB1 crown. Per O’Connell’s words, whoever is chosen must do two things: minimize turnovers and feed Justin Jefferson the rock.

There’s no other blueprint for a team without Kirk Cousins. A painful reality.

Ultimately, O’Connell’s decision at quarterback will probably determine the season’s fate. Although, he could pick one and bench the man if struggles ensued. We shall see.

1. Can Minnesota Turn a Cousins-less Remainder into a Playoff Trip?

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

Teams aren’t supposed to prosper after the fall of a QB1. The 2017 Eagles are often cited but are the exception to the rule, not the standard.

It’s likely lost on folks right now because of the two-game losing streak, but O’Connell’s positioning the Vikings to reach the postseason without Cousins is quite remarkable. It’s also a testament to Brian Flores’ defense, which became Top-10-good in the last two months.

The granddaddy of all storylines remaining in 2023 for the Vikings is this: Can O’Connell guide the club to a playoff berth with a hodgepodge of journeyman or late-round quarterbacks? Will he prove that “Head Coach Wins” are a smarter metric than “QB Wins?”


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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