Vikings Rumors: The Running Game’s New Groove, A New Foe, & A Curious Quest

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Though we’re now into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors aren’t as abundant, we’ll still be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the Vikings running game getting into a new groove, a new foe emerging in the NFC playoff push, and the curious quest that’s ahead of Minnesota.

Vikings Rumors: 12.20.2023

Rumor #1 — The Vikings Are Getting into a New Groove at Running Back

In Cincinnati, Ty Chandler put together the most impressive outing of any Vikings running back in 2023. There have been some good stretches from Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers had his moments, but the 23 carries, 132 yards, and 1 TD were impressive.

What does that mean for who gets the start in Week 16? Well, that’s a tad uncertain, but Kevin O’Connell seemed to suggest that Chandler could be the featured back.

Syndication: The Enquirer
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

“We have confidence in Alex,” O’Connell notes, “but I think Ty has done a lot of great things and will continue to do so and hopefully will be a huge reason why we’re able to have success offensively down the stretch.” Earlier, O’Connell even prophecies about “a featured, featured role in [Minnesota’s] offense” for Mr. Chandler.

Partnering that endorsement with the on-field product points toward a potential switch at RB1 with just a few weeks left in the season. Getting some more sizzle at RB would go a long way in helping the Vikings to topple Jared Goff and the no-longer-hapless Lions.

Rumor #2 — A New Foe Has Emerged in the NFC Playoff Race

Like D.K. Metcalf chasing down Budda Baker, the Rams are chasing down the Vikings.

The proud owners of a 4-1 record since their Week 10 bye, the LA Rams are sitting in the #7 slot with an identical 7-7 record. Giving Minnesota the edge (currently, at least) is the superior in-conference record. One does wonder, though, how things will be looking following this weekend’s action. Just how merry is the Minnesota Christmas going to be?

Aug 12, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) talks with quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) on the field prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Putting a damper on the holiday enthusiasm in The Gopher State will be a Vikings defeat and a Rams triumph. Even worse is that a Rams loss won’t lead to too much merriment and glad tidings of great joy. After all, LA’s upcoming opponent is the dreaded New Orleans Saints, a squad that still inspires no shortage of negative feelings in Vikings Land (I have it on good authority that everyone involved in the Saints organization is getting coal this year).

The good thing is simply that Minnesota overcame New Orleans earlier in the year. If the Saints win and so do the Vikings, then Minnesota will still reside in the #6 spot since O’Connell’s crew has the tiebreaker.

The broader point, folks, is that the Vikings’ grasp on the coveted playoff spot isn’t entirely firm. Dropping close games against Denver, Chicago, and Cincinnati will do that. The Rams appear to be the most formidable foe in the playoff race, but there’s a logjam for those final couple spots in the conference. Minnesota must find ways to win.

Rumor #3 — The End of the Vikings’ Season Features a Curious Quest

Alice would say that things are getting curiouser and curiouser, but I’ll constrain myself to just a single curious. The quest that’s ahead of Minnesota is indeed a curious one.

How does a final trio of games against divisional opponents sound? Frankly, it doesn’t matter too much how you feel about the scenario since things are set in stone. Next are up the Lions, Packers, and then the Lions once again. The wild thing is that another date with Detroit is potentially lurking on the horizon.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions
Sep 17, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell looks at the scoreboard in the third quarter of their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Assume, for the sake of argument, that nothing changes in the standings by the end of the regular season. The Rams slow down their resurgence, deciding to stay put in the 7th spot. The Vikings finish as the 6th team and the Lions finish as the 3rd team. The opening round of the playoffs would feature yet another Vikings and Lions battle.

The Vikings play in Detroit in Week 18. The opening round of the playoffs could then feature another trip to Detroit. Not often that games between divisional teams take place in consecutive weeks, let alone in the same stadium.

Back when the NFL’s schedule makers were putting things together, the idea of Minnesota and Detroit being the top teams in the NFC North wasn’t hard to foresee. Even the idea of the final game of the year having major playoff implications wasn’t hard to foresee. Now that things have finally come around to the end, though, the situation does look a bit odd. Compelling, yes, but still odd.

Kickoff for the first Detroit game takes place on Christmas Eve at 12 p.m. CST. The Vikings can give their fans a wonderful gift by pushing their record to 8-7.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference 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.