A week after the Vikings got punched in the throat and had their conquerors take the NFC North on the Vikings home turf, their biggest rivals effectively ended their season with a home thrashing by way of a 33-10 defeat.
The game was functionally over in the first quarter.
The New Year’s eve game was the cherry on top of an objectively bad calendar year for the Minnesota Vikings, and a fitting one at that. They started 2023 by way of a 24-point loss to the Packers at Lambeau, and ended it with a 23-point loss to the same team at US Bank Stadium.
In between those two disappointing rivalry contests, a lot happened.
The Vikings of 2022 got bounced from the postseason (4th and 8) and also failed to come to an agreement with the 2 biggest faces of their franchise to guarantee their future in Minnesota.
They did hit big on their 2023 first round draft pick (Jordan Addison) - a first successful pick for GM Kwesit Adofo-Mensah - but also saw his other first round pick (2022, Lewis Cine) fall completely off the face of the earth.
Hey, but remember when Josh Dobbs came in and killed it? Yeah! That was neat! Oh... oh. yeah. Fun while it lasted.
2023 was first and foremost a very unusual year for the purple and gold, and not unusual in a good way like 2022 was. What sunk this team more than anything else, as good man Warren Ludford pointed out, was injuries to its stars and turnovers. Lots of turnovers.
Injuries and turnovers are great ways to further demoralize a sad/mad/frustrated/disappointed fanbase. We must remember that there must be hope in order to feel pain, and this season there was hope in the way the Vikings snapped off a 6-wins-in-7-games spell at one point.
Alas, it did not last, and here we fans are resuming our place once again as the top masochists in the NFL (seriously click that link and have a laugh. We all need one right now.).
The 2023 season will most likely end at this week, with the Vikings having little chance to even play a meaningful spoiler for other NFC teams let alone happen into a postseason spot.
Speaking of spoilers - here’s a spoiler alert... The Vikings fell hard in this week’s power rankings from around the NFL and now find themselves firmly outside the top-20.
ESPN: #23 (down 5 from #18)
Biggest offseason contract to watch: QB Kirk Cousins
For the past 10 months, Cousins’ contract has hovered over the Vikings more than any other issue facing the roster — and it’s still no closer to being resolved. Cousins was playing at a high level when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon midway through the season, having thrown for the second-most yards and tying for the most touchdown passes in the league at the time. The team’s 3-5 record since then can be traced to poor quarterback play behind him. But the Vikings will have to decide whether they want to pay top dollar to a quarterback who will be 36 next summer and is coming off the first major injury of his professional career at a time when they have other holes to fill and a big check to pay receiver Justin Jefferson at some point. — Kevin Seifert
NFL.com: Eric Edholm, #21 ( down 3 from #18)
Transcribing the Week 18 scenarios that would allow Minnesota to back-door its way into the playoffs would use up most of my word count, so let’s get down to some raw facts. The Vikings’ shorthanded defense might have been the biggest culprit in Sunday’s crushing loss to the Packers, but that unit has banked enough cred with the wholesale improvements (without a massive talent increase) it’s made since last year. We all know that the Vikings’ QB situation after Kirk Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury was the real underlying issue, leading to a weekly Press Your Luck-style game show for Kevin O’Connell to land on an able replacement. Unfortunately, KOC hit too many whammies down the stretch, and the wheel was still spinning Monday, when no starter had yet been named for the regular-season finale. If you’re a Vikings fan who was in their feels watching a shirtless Cousins lead the “SKOL” chant before Sunday’s game, you’re probably not alone. Is there a chance he’s back as QB1 in 2024? A month ago, I’m not sure what answer I’d have given, but now? Absolutely yes.
Yahoo Sports: Frank Schwab #21 (down 4 from #17)
Going to rookie Jaren Hall in what amounted to a must-win game was always risky, and it turned out as bad as it could have been with the Vikings getting blown out in the first half and having to go back to Nick Mullens. The Vikings’ offseason will be spent wondering what might have been if Kirk Cousins stayed healthy.
USA Today: Nate Davis #22 (down 7 from #15)
Not a whole lot has gone according to plan in 2023 – but undrafted LB Ivan Pace Jr. has been a notable exception.
Bleacher Report: #21 (down 2 from #19)
Barring a miracle, the Minnesota Vikings are going to miss the playoffs in 2023. And while it isn’t the only reason (or even the biggest), Kevin O’Connell’s decision to start rookie Jaren Hall on Sunday night may have been the straw that broke the Vikings’ backs.
Simply put, Hall was awful against the Packers—five completions in 10 attempts for 67 yards and an interception. By the time the Vikings went to Nick Mullens in the second half, the game (and likely Minnesota’s postseason aspirations) were over.
“The Vikings’ quarterback carousel led the offense into total disarray, and the club laid an egg in a crucial Sunday Night Football matchup with the Packers, scoring just 10 points in a blowout loss,” Moton said. “Whether the Vikings trot out Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall or Joshua Dobbs in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions, they’re unlikely to get the most out of wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison. You probably won’t see the Vikings in the top half of these power rankings again until they re-sign quarterback Kirk Cousins or find his potential successor.”
Minnesota’s quarterback situation is going to be one of the more interesting in the league in the offseason—especially with Cousins recovering from a torn Achilles.
The Vikings, like the Bengals, tried to survive as an offensive-minded playoff team as long as possible without Kirk Cousins. Now they must decide if this season proved they need to bring back Cousins badly or provide further evidence of needing to hastened a more complete rebuild.
CBS Sports, Pete Prisco: #21 (down 3 from #18)
Losing to the Packers pretty much ends their playoff chances. They have quarterback issues that magnify how much they miss Kirk Cousins.
The Ringer: #21 (down 2 from #19)
Jaren Hall is not him. Well, it was worth an experiment. Minnesota decided to start rookie fifth-round QB Jaren Hall against the Packers on New Year’s Eve, and then promptly benched him after he went 5-for-10 for 67 yards and an interception in the first half. It should be noted that the interception—which came on a tipped pass—wasn’t solely Hall’s fault (though the throw was off-target), but Hall also lost a fumble that was the result of poor pressure awareness. He looked generally indecisive and was inaccurate, and the offense was inept with him at the wheel. The team benching him for Nick Mullens confirms Minnesota’s QB options for 2024: Kirk Cousins on a new contract, or someone not currently on the roster. —Riley McAtee
Pro Football Network, Dalton Miller, #22 (down 3 from #19)
The Vikings’ defense has been arguably the most entertaining in the NFL this season. They’re aggressive and exotic without being a gimmick. Brian Flores is a madman, and his master plan has been a treat to watch as defenses surged back to life across the league in 2023.
But the unit failed Sunday night in a must-win game against the Packers, allowing Jordan Love to light up the scoreboard. Minnesota ran out of steam on both sides of the ball as the year progressed, setting up a fascinating offseason in which Kirk Cousins will be a free agent.