One Stat Could Control Vikings’ Fate in 2024

Justin Jefferson Rule
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings protect the football under head coach Kevin O’Connell, the team is utterly flawless — with no exaggeration. However, when turnovers flood the box score, Minnesota turns into the worst team in the NFL.

One Stat Could Control Vikings’ Fate in 2024

It’s science. Football science, anyway.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

To make it fast and simple, here’s the stat:

Vikings’ Record under Kevin O’Connell,
Breaking Even or Winning Turnover Battle:


Vikings’ Record under Kevin O’Connell,
Losing Turnover Battle:


The Jekyll and Hyde illustrates the swings of recent Vikings football, which is basically a litany of close games since O’Connell took the big job in 2022. Minnesota leads the NFL in contests decided by one score or less, and when O’Connell’s team protects the football, they win. When they do not, they lose. It’s as simple as that.

Sam darnold
Minnesota quarterback S. Darnold addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during OTAs. Darnold joined the Vikings’ roster in March 2024 during free agency, on deck as a Kirk Cousins replacement and sharing the QB room later with rookie passer J.J. McCarthy of Michigan.

What’s the implication for 2024? Well, that’s grimy. Sam Darnold joined the franchise in March, a patchover quarterback to J.J. McCarthy, who was drafted as the signal-caller of the future in April. One major knock on Darnold’s wayward six-season career is fumbles. He puts the rock on the grass frequently compared to his peers.

And on McCarthy, he’s the great unknown. He could protect the rock wonderfully — or fumble it all over the place like Daniel Jones a few years ago. Everything about McCarthy is unknown until he takes the QB1 baton, a timetable with no details as of mid-June.

sam darnold
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports.

Regarding turnovers, one could argue the enterprise went south in 2023 because of the stat alone. These are the Vikings’ turnover ranking numbers since 2015:

Turnovers on Offense,
Vikings NFL Ranking,
Since 2015:
(1st = Fewest Giveaways in NFL)

2015: 5th
2016: 6th
2017: 5th
2018: 16th
2019: 15th
2020: 24th
2021: 1st
2022: 13th
2023: 31st

Minnesota essentially went from first to worst in two years, an unsavory stat for a team claiming to be all-in for a Super Bowl. The Vikings, with Darnold or McCarthy in charge, must drag the turnover stat back toward the 2022 style when it ranked 13th in the sport — not 31st like last year.

Of course, any team that ranks 31st per turnovers won’t thrive or realistically reach the postseason. It’s just that Minnesota’s pro-turnover and anti-turnover variance is supersized compared to other NFL teams.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Therefore, when you’re watching Darnold-led or McCarthy-led football in September, if Minnesota starts fumbling and throwing the pigskin to other teams, they will probably lose. Until the cycle reverses or discontinues, the stat is bulletproof.

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 MIN 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