Your Minnesota Vikings didn’t lose a football game yesterday!
The 19-13 victory over a hapless Chicago Bears team was one of the ugliest football games I have ever seen. The comedy of errors included bad football stuff like a blocked extra point, an undrafted rookie losing an unnecessary fumble that went for 6, and a VERY ugly game sealing interception that was almost fumbled back.
Each team only scored one offensive touchdown. There were 2 field goals made by each team, and eventually also a missed field goal by Greg Joseph.
This game felt like a competition of who wanted to lose more, and Chicago was happy to do so.
Justin Fields and Kirk Cousins trying to score a touchdown pic.twitter.com/v5Ib4QfKZ7— Truth Takes (@truthsportakes) October 15, 2023
The Vikings are now 2-4. Many fans are disappointed in the victory, not because it was an atrocious football game, but because we should try to lose for draft capital and tank.
Given the way this season is going I don’t blame them, but let’s look at if it is even realistic to return to competitive play.
The Vikings have fallen to 2-4 eight times in team history.
Two of those teams finished with a double digit loss total. One finished at 7-9. Three finished with a .500 record. Two finished the season with a winning record, and another actually made the playoffs.
Those were the 1999 Minnesota Vikings, finishing 10-6 and earning a wild card spot, they would actually beat the Dallas Cowboys (27-10) and then get greatest show on turf’ed by eventual Super Bowl champions the St. Louis Rams.
That Vikings squad was anchored by Jeff George as Randall Cunningham was benched in his last season as a Viking, and George actually turned the team around. Randy Moss was putting up more ungodly numbers after his scintillating rookie season.
Robert Smith was doing Robert Smith things while rushing to just rushing over 1000 yards. This was a similar team on paper to the one that had just put up the franchise’s best season to this day.
This Vikings team is certainly not that, but at the same time, there are some parallels to be made. At least 13 wins in the previous year? Check. Stand out receiving talent? Even if Justin Jefferson is currently injured, I’ll still count his contributions, both past and once he gets back from injury.
Both teams were/are unquestionably offense first. This year’s team has a statistically better quarterback than Jeff George. 1999’s team had a better rushing game by miles.
That ‘99 team naturally played some pretty ugly games off the bat. A loss to an eventual .500 Oakland team, a loss to a .500 Packers team, and a loss to a Bears team that wasn’t that much better than this year’s. That start to the season also saw defeat to an eventual .500 Lions team.
One key aspect to how bad that start was is that they had went 1-3 to start divisional play (a win coming over Tampa Bay). For all their faults, this year’s team doesn’t have a divisional loss and is not losing to those kind of bad teams.
In fact, Minnesota has the 6th toughest strength of schedule in the league this year.
The Week 8 to Week 15 schedule is certainly ripe for a turnaround after what will likely be a loss to San Fransisco in week 7.
The Bears, Falcons, Broncos, and Raiders are all games that this team should feel confident in. The Packers and Saints will likely be tougher contests, but that is giving those two teams some generosity.
The bye week for this year’s team is also at a favorable point in the season, during week 13, before their schedule swings back toward more difficult.
If it works out that Jefferson recovers well and new additions can firmly establish their spot on the field (Akers needs more carries and Risner a bit more time to be familiar enough with the playbook) that bye week could be at a very ideal time for rest and a refresh.
The turnovers are also starting to normalize with only 3 in the last two games (an improvement) and a -1 turnover margin in those contests.
99’s team had an arguably worse turnover problem, giving the ball away 16 times across their 2-4 start. They collected the ball 7 times. That's a -9 turnover differential, same as this year’s team. ‘99’s squad was worse at giving the ball away but better at taking it away.
This is not what the ‘tankers’ want to hear... That a playoff season has been salvaged from a somewhat similar 2-4 start before.
Yes, it’s a great year to get a potential ‘QBOTF’ with a stacked draft. If this is as bad a team as many (including myself) believe, then they’ll lose regardless. The fans get what they want, a high draft pick and a recognition that it’s time to make a higher level of change.
If the team wins, the team wins. We don’t get that promising QB in the draft. After we give Justin Jefferson his bag and say goodbye to Kirk, which is likely in any case, we could sign a stop-gap QB for a year in anticipation of landing a 2025 free agent (which currently has a stacked class).
It’s not what most of you want to hear, but this does not look like a team off of the field that is actively trying to throw away this season. I see frustration, not despair or hopelessness.
They still believe that they can and will compete.