The Vikings are not yet at the point of no return on an NFL season that started barely a week ago, but I would argue that they can see the point from here already.
Yes, that's fast. But things move fast when the standings move slow. They're already 0-2, a steep hill to climb to get to the playoffs though a little easier than the 10% historical success rate because most of that history didn't include seven playoff teams for each conference.
The Vikings are home underdogs (1.5 points) to the Chargers, another winless team, on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings clearly could win this game. And they are far further away from giving up on this season than some of the fan base, as one would imagine based on internal belief and as evidenced by (finally) adding guard Dalton Risner to a sagging offensive line this week.
A victory Sunday would change the narrative, at least temporarily, to "yeah, they put themselves in an early hole this season, but this team won 13 games last year and look at how awful the NFC North is" — something Patrick Reusse pointed out on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
But if I might be the cynic providing a counterweight to the eternal optimism of Reusse, the alternative is even more interesting.
What happens next if they lose?
The easy and likely correct answer is, "Probably nothing, at least right away." But the cascading effect would be undeniable.
At 0-3, their playoff odds would be next to nothing. Bill Barnwell recently wrote at ESPN that 99 teams have started 0-3 since 2002, and just one has made the playoffs. Only one other would have made it had there been seven-team fields in each conference all that time. So let's call it about a 2% chance.
And it wouldn't be their record but also how they got there. The 0-3 would have come with two losses in winnable home games, leaving the Vikings with just six at home and eight more on the road this year. Their next five games after Sunday: at Panthers, home vs. Chiefs, at Bears, home vs. 49ers, at Packers. That stretch also happens end on Oct. 29, two days before the NFL trade deadline.
Let's say they're 2-6 at the deadline. Would they consider offloading veterans like Danielle Hunter and perhaps even Kirk Cousins, both of whom are in the final year of their respective contracts, in order to accumulate draft capital and enhance the potential value of their own 2024 first-round pick?
Even if they don't make and admittedly rare midseason trade, an 0-3 start would almost certainly set them on a path to be no better than mediocre this season — a fate that could influence their offseason plans, particularly at quarterback.
It's a lot of what-if (sort of my specialty), and a lot of these scenarios could play out eventually even with a win Sunday.
But make no mistake: This game feels like a crossroads, even if the journey just started.
Here are four more things to know today:
*Reusse talked a lot on today's podcast about Minnesota hockey legend Henry Boucha, who died at age 72. Expect a terrific Reusse written piece on Boucha later as well.
*Carlos Correa's injury is a concern.
*Speaking of the Twins, I enjoyed this look from beat writer Bobby Nightengale at how some of the Twins' top prospects fared in the minors this year.
*Just when you thought Tanner Morgan's eligibility was used up ... OK, it is. But he's still back in a different capacity with the Gophers football program.