Well, the NFC north is officially the Detroit Lions’ division this year. The Lions last week came into Minnesota, picked up 4 interceptions from now-deposed QB Nick Mullens, and walked away with the NFC North title.
It was yet another one-score game, and by god, the Vikings are in prime position to take the outright NFL record for one-score contests this week. The Super-Bowl era record was set at 14 by the New York Giants of 1994, and would only be tied once in the following 27 years (2015 Baltimore Ravens).
After those 27 years, the Vikings did something amazing. They tied the record in 2021, and with 2 games to play, tied the record again in 2023. It seems like a formality that they will not only break the record, but smash it if they go 2-for-2 in their remaining 2 games (Green Bay Packers, @ Detroit Lions) they’ll break the record by 2.
That stat only scratches the surface of how tough this season has been for the Vikings and their fans. Every Sunday (or gameday) has been a rollercoaster of emotion.
Even in their only 2-score victory (week 8, 24-10 @ Green Bay), a torn achilles in the 4th quarter ended the season of their franchise quarterback. This team can’t stop toying with its faithful.
Throughout all of this year, the media personalities that assign power rankings have somewhat consistently held the Vikings in the 10-20 range. That says to me that they view the Vikes (rightly) as an average football team this season, which I’d argue is a compliment given the thoroughness of the injuries sustained by this team.
Some experts agreed with that assessment this week. They haven’t been able to call the Vikings dead in the water yet, but the vultures are circling. Before that happens, the Vikings have to lose.
To not do that, this team has to take things one game at a time. It’s virtually an elimination rivalry week clash against the Packers on New Year’s Eve in primetime.
ESPN: #18 (no change)
Best rookie: WR Jordan Addison
Addison has fit right into the Vikings’ downfield passing game, benefiting from the attention teammates Justin Jefferson gets from opposing defenses but also producing during Jefferson’s injury absence. Addison’s nine touchdown receptions is tied for the most among NFL rookies, and his 826 receiving yards ranks second. Undrafted linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. has also made a big impact, but Addison’s season-long production — and capacity for improvement in future seasons — nets him this award. — Kevin Seifert
The Vikings aren’t done, but it’s getting late. They deserve a ton of credit for keeping the season alive — and even extending the team’s midseason win streak to five games — after Kirk Cousins was lost for the season. Justin Jefferson was sidelined for that entire hot stretch, so it really is a credit to Kevin O’Connell’s and Brian Flores’ coaching jobs, getting the most out of their respective units to remain in the playoff race. In Sunday’s six-point loss to Detroit, Jefferson put on a show, reminding everyone just how rare he is, whether via his incredible diving TD catch or his improbable conversion in the waning minutes on 3rd-and-27. But that show was also a reminder of what could have been had this team kept its core healthy for more of the season. A 2-0 finish against the Packers and Lionscan get the Vikings in the postseason, but they must prepare themselves for the possibility that their largely-inspiring campaign might come up just short.
Yahoo Sports: Frank Schwab #17 (down 3 from #14)
Just when we thought Jameis Winston wouldn’t be a big part of this 2023 season, he somehow assumed the identity “Nick Mullens.” Mullens is Jameis Lite, with the possibility of a 60-yard highlight or the worst interception you’ve seen on every pass attempt. Not good for the blood pressure of any Vikings fan or coach.
USA Today: Nate Davis #15 (down 2 from #17)
All-Pro WR Justin Jefferson’s 5,648 career receiving yards are already the most ever for a player in his first four NFL seasons. And if he’d had just 30 extra yards Sunday, the Vikes’ playoff outlook would be exponentially better.
Bleacher Report: #19 (no change)
That the Minnesota Vikings have been able to hang around the fringes of the NFC postseason chase despite a litany of injuries is a testament to the team’s resilience.
But the injuries (and poor quarterback play) appear to finally be catching up to the team. After Nick Mullens tossed four more interceptions against the Lions in a game in which the Vikings lost tight end T.J. Hockenson (knee), Jordan Addison (ankle) and edge-rusher D.J. Wonnum (quad), the Vikings are 7-8 and on the outside looking in.
After the game, wide receiver Justin Jefferson told reporters the team’s struggles are a testament to Kirk Cousins’ value to the team.
“I think it goes to show the world the type of player Kirk is,” Jefferson said. “At the end of the day, this is a tough league. Not everybody is meant for this job. It’s tough not having No. 8 out there—the captain that he is, the leader that he is. He’s a great player.”
“The Vikings aren’t dead just yet,” Davenport said. “With victories over the Packers at home and Lions on the road, Minnesota could still make the postseason. But the Packers are just as desperate as the Vikings, and the Lions could still be fighting for seeding. Even if these Vikings somehow win those games, the propensity of Mullens and Josh Dobbs to turn the ball over all but guarantees a quick exit from the postseason. Frankly, the Vikings should use these last two games to see if the team has anything with rookie Jaren Hall. That makes more sense long-term than trying to limp into a postseason beatdown.”
Sporting News, Vinnie Iyler: #21 (down 2 from #19)
The Vikings are doing their best to get good QB play minus Kirk Cousins, but the turnovers remain the issue and now more injuries have hit their receiving corps. The defense can’t hold up well that way, putting the wild-card hopes on the edge.
CBS Sports, Pete Prisco: #18 (down 4 from #14)
The defense has had major issues the past few weeks, which is surprising. They still have a playoff shot, but they will need help.
The Ringer: #19 (no change)
I very much enjoyed Justin Jefferson’s “Don’t you dare forget about me”–type performance against the Lions in Week 16. He went off for six catches for 141 yards, the type of game we were used to seeing from him before injuries derailed his 2023 season, and he put the offense on his back at times, but it wasn’t enough. Minnesota has outperformed its talent this season. When you’re starting Nick Mullens, who threw for more than 400 yards but also had four interceptions against Detroit, and when you have significant personnel deficiencies on defense, there’s a limit to what you can achieve. The Vikings still have a chance of sneaking into the playoffs if they can take down the Packers this Sunday night, but it feels like we’re nearing the end of the road with this group. —Sheil Kapadia
Pro Football Network, Dalton Miller, #19 (down 2 from #17)
If the Vikings could field a quarterback who wasn’t actively sabotaging them every time they drop back to pass, Minnesota could be one of the more dangerous teams in the NFC. Unfortunately, Nick Mullens played the role of Santa Claus for the Lions, gifting them turnover-worthy plays for four quarters.