So Far, the Vikings’ Season Has Been Defined by 3 Trends

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At 7-7, the Vikings’ season is quickly marching toward its end. Somehow, the team finds itself in a favorable spot to make the playoffs.

Given the start to the year — dropping to 0-3 before being 1-4 — it’s no small feat that Kevin O’Connell’s crew has positioned themselves in a reasonably advantageous spot to make the final tournament. An awful lot has happened in a few short months, with some pretty clear trends emerging. Take a look at the three major ones for the 2023 Minnesota Vikings.

The 3 Major Trends of The Vikings’ Season

Trend #1 — Injuries Galore

Not all injuries are made equal. An NFL team will struggle much more when the QB1 is lost for the season than when the CB5 is lost for the season.

Losing Kirk Cousins in Week 8 should have ended Minnesota’s playoff aspirations. After all, Justin Jefferson and Nick Mullens were already on the IR. So was Marcus Davenport. There were going to be absences from Jaren Hall, Christian Darrisaw, Akayleb Evans, Jordan Hicks, K.J. Osborn, Brian O’Neill, Alexander Mattison, and Cam Akers (among others) coming up, too.

Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) gets pressure from Green Bay Packers linebacker Kenny Clark (97) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Basically any football coach at any level will preach about the importance of overcoming adversity. The Vikings, though, have actually been doing so. Teams like the Jets have crumbled without their top option at quarterback, but the Vikings have been a different story.

Truth be told, there is a very small chance that Minnesota can win in the postseason. Getting there isn’t unlikely, but the intense competition once there is likely to be too much for a roster that has been drained of some top talent. Injuries have arguably been the story of the season for the Vikings.

Trend #2 — Turnovers in Abundance

Lose the turnover battle and lose the game. Sounds a bit too simple but it has been largely true for Minnesota.

The Vikings have fumbled the football 23 times and have thrown 12 interceptions. Now, not every fumble leads to a turnover (14 of those fumbles have been lost), but you get the point: ball security has been a problem. The two most recent games — a victory over the Raiders where Minnesota was +3 in the turnover department and a loss to the Bengals where Minnesota was -1 in the turnover department — help to illustrate the point.

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) picks up a Chicago Bears fumble before returning it for a touchdown in the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Even think back to the beginning of the season. Tampa Bay won due to Minnesota being so careless with the football and turnovers were again a major factor in the Week 2 loss to Philly. The very end of the Chargers game in Week 3 could have involved a game-winning touchdown toss but instead featured a game-losing interception blunder.

The defense has generally been really good, with some high points coming via interception and fumble recovery. One thinks of the Jordan Hicks and D.J. Wonnum scoop & score touchdowns as great moments in the season. These moments, though, haven’t been enough to offset the turnovers aplenty from O’Connell’s side of the ball.

#3 — A Defensive Revival

Be average. That was the mandate for Brian Flores.

Flores, to his credit, hasn’t contented himself with just being pretty good. Somehow, the defensive coordinator has pushed his side of the ball into the NFL’s top 10 for points against. His defense is currently allowing an average of 19.2 points against per game, good for 7th-best in the NFL.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The real concern at this stage is simply that there appears to be very little chance Flores sticks around to be the DC in 2024. The work he has done has been so remarkable that some team is going to give him a chance to be a head coach. At 42, Flores finds himself at an age where he could be the lead man for a long time if he gets to the right spot.

In the meantime, Vikings fans will be looking for their DC to fix the 4th-quarter woes from recent weeks. Seeing some better finish from the Brian Flores defense would mean Minnesota not only gets into the playoffs but has an outside shot at picking up a win or two once there.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and StatMuse helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.