Throughout much of the first half of the season, the Minnesota Vikings appeared to be a team that was going to be in sell mode at the NFL’s trade deadline.
The Vikings were winless through their first 3 games of the season and they were turning the ball over with tremendous frequency. It seemed like their first-place finish in 2022 was mocking them. They had finished in first place in the NFC North with a 13-4 record, and they played exceptionally well in 1-score games. Twelve of their victories had been by 8 points or less, and they had executed quite well down the stretch in many of those games.
However, the 2023 season saw a reversal of form. Instead of winning 1-score games, they dropped 4 of them in their first 5 games.
Just when it seemed like the Vikings were destined to a losing season, they appeared to come to life with 3 victories in 4 games. Two of the wins came against the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears, and the victories over those disappointing teams did not do much to raise the team’s profile, but the Vikings may have turned their season around with a Week 7 Monday night win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners are clearly one of the best teams in the league, and the Vikings attacked on offense and forced turnovers with their defense. As a result of that 22-17 triumph, the Vikings are now a game away from .500 with a 3-4 record.
They can get back to the .500 mark at 4-4 if they can beat the Packers in their Week 8 meeting in Green Bay.
No reason to sell at this point
When the Vikings were losing, there was talk that the Vikings would be in the sell mode. Players like Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Jordan Hicks and K.J. Osborn appeared to be those that could be moved. If any of those players were traded, the Vikings could accumulate future draft picks.
But the Vikings don’t have to take that approach any longer. They can look at the season and realize they could possibly win the NFC North or at least make the playoffs.
Actually, if the season ended today, the Vikings would be in the final Wild Card spot. If they can reach the .500 mark, they have four winnable games on the schedule against the Falcons, Saints, Broncos and Bears.
If the Vikings can win those games, a playoff appearance will be likely.
Vikings have a defensive need
The Vikings added Marcus Davenport in the offseason in order to upgrade their pass rush. The former Saint appeared to be an ideal partner for Hunter, who is clearly one of the best pass rushers in the league.
Davenport suffered an ankle sprain and is on the Injured Reserve list. While he could come back from the injury, the Vikings cannot be sure when he will return and how well he will be able to play when the does get back.
Hunter certainly is getting the job done for the Vikings as he leads the league with 9.0 sacks heading into Week 8. It seems quite likely that he will exceed his career high of 14.5 sacks that he reached in 2018 and matched in 2019.
However, the Vikings don’t want to put everything on Hunter’s shoulders. The team is adapting nicely to defensive coordinator Brian Flores and his aggressive scheme, so adding another pass rusher who can take Davenport’s role and responsibility would seem to make sense.
The Washington Commanders have an abundance of talent on the defensive line. That is the team’s strength, and it appeared to be an area that head coach Ron Rivera and his staff could depend on to make a postseason run of their own.
As the Commanders prepared for their Week 8 game with the Eagles, they have lost 4 of 5 games and are coming off a defeat to the last-place New York Giants. While they have the same 3-4 record as the Vikings, they appear to be going in the opposite direction.
They could be in sell mode at the October 31 deadline, and Chase Young could be one of the players on the move.
The ultra-talented Young has had injury problems of his own prior to this season, but he does have 14 tackles and 5.0 sacks this season.
He is also in the final year of his 4-year, $34 million contract, and that could allow the Vikings or any team pursuing Young to avoid paying a huge price for him since he will be able to leave on his own during the offseason as a free agent.
If the Vikings make a move for him, it could give the team an incredible pass-rushing 1-2 punch of Hunter and Young.