As millions of Vikings fans google scouting reports on USC quarterback Caleb Williams, book trips to the 2024 NFL draft and beg their team to trade Kirk Cousins to the Jets, here are 10 reasons not to give up on this bumbling, fumbling, mumbling squad:
1. Randomness. The Vikings' three losses to start the 2023 season are a testament to randomness. Against Tampa Bay, Cousins threw what looked like a touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn that a defender ripped away for a goal-line interception. In Philadelphia, star receiver Justin Jefferson reached for the goal line and had the ball slip away for a touchback. Sunday, in the Vikings' 28-24 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Chargers scored one touchdown on a tipped pass and stopped the Vikings' last drive by intercepting a pass into the end zone that bounced off several players. Don't draw grand conclusions from strange plays.
2. The schedule. Most of the schedule is soft. The Vikings should win next Sunday at Carolina, and at Chicago in three weeks. After the 49ers visit, the Vikings face Green Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, Chicago and Las Vegas, and they could find themselves at 8-5 or 7-6. Even if they are 6-7, they may be on track to make the playoffs. Last year the Seahawks earned a wild-card bid by finishing 9-8. The Vikings have all of their divisional games remaining, including two against Detroit and one at home against Green Bay in the last three weeks of the season.
3. The passing. The Vikings' passing game has a chance to be astounding. Cousins has thrown for 1,075 yards in three games, with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Jefferson might be the best player in the game, Jordan Addison is on schedule to be a star, T.J. Hockenson is putting up big numbers and Osborn is a quality fourth option.
4. JJ doesn't tank. The strangely popular notion of trading Cousins and tanking the season to improve draft position ignores myriad realities, this being the most important: The Vikings are trying to sign Jefferson to a long-term deal. You think he wants to spend a year in his prime, a year when he has a chance to break the single-season record for receiving yards, losing on purpose?
5. Fumbles are weird. Interceptions are a reflection of decisionmaking, pass-blocking and quarterback talent. The Vikings' fumbles have been odd, and recoveries are mostly luck. It's highly unlikely this level of fumbling will continue.
6. The new season. Most of the doomsday statistics about teams failing to make the playoffs after starting 0-3 are based on shorter seasons. The new 17-game schedule should allow for slower starts. There are 14 games remaining. That's 82.3% of the schedule. Imagine if the Twins had given up in April.
7. Running for their lives. The Vikings finally ran effectively Sunday, rushing 24 times for 130 yards. An improved running game should make the passing game even more lethal.
8. Help is coming. I asked coach Kevin O'Connell whether Brian Flores' creative alignments and blitzes were an attempt to hide personnel failings. He diplomatically noted that pass rusher Marcus Davenport could return from injury soon and improve the pass rush. The Vikings brought in two new players last week — Dalton Risner, who should be an upgrade at guard, and Cam Akers, who will at least provide depth at running back.
9. This is not a rebuild … yet. This is a flawed team. Every team in the modern NFL, because of the salary cap and injuries, is flawed. You don't throw away a season when you have Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, Brian O'Neill, Christian Darrisaw, Cousins and Hockenson healthy and in their prime.
10. 0-3 is a mirage. The Vikings weren't as good as their record indicated last year. They're not as bad as their record indicates this year. Winning the games they should win would put them back in the playoffs.
"I will say I've been a part of a team that lost three in a row and found a way to win a world championship," O'Connell said.
These Vikings aren't the 2021 Rams. They also aren't the 2023 Bears.