Through the first five weeks of the 2023 NFL season, six teams held a 1-4 record: Minnesota, New England, Denver, Chicago, Arizona and the New York Giants.
Five weeks later, two of those teams are currently among the hottest in the league.
The Vikings (6-4) have won five consecutive games – the longest active streak in the NFL – and six of their past seven. Minnesota has won those contests despite several key players on both sides of the ball missing time at one point during the stretch.
Denver (4-5), meanwhile, has won three in a row and four of six since a 70-20 loss at Miami in Week 3. The Broncos defeated Chicago the following week before dropping bouts with the Jets and Chiefs. Consecutive home wins against Green Bay and Kansas City, the latter of which snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs, provided a bounce back. This past week, Denver beat Buffalo on the road on Monday Night Football thanks to a 36-yard do-over field-goal attempt by kicker Wil Lutz with no time remaining after the Bills were flagged for too many players on the field.
The two teams will look to keep their streaks going this week on Sunday Night Football in Denver.
Minnesota and Denver have met 15 times in their history, with the Vikings holding a slight 8-7 advantage. Although the Vikings have defeated the Broncos twice in the past five matchups, Minnesota hasn't won in the Mile-High City in the 21st century; the Vikings last victory in Denver was on Halloween in 1999 on a last-second field goal.
The battles have been extremely close, however. Of the 15 total games, 10 have been decided by four points or fewer, including the past four matchups. Minnesota and Denver split those 10 games, with the Vikings winning the most recent meeting 27-23 in 2019.
Examining those 10 games a little further, six were decided in either the final seconds of regulation or in the overtime period. The Vikings and the Broncos each won a game on a touchdown pass with 19 seconds or fewer remaining in the fourth quarter, a field goal as time expired in regulation, and a game-winning kick in overtime.
Let's see who the experts are picking to win the game:
Vikings 22, Broncos 19 – Gennaro Filice, NFL.com
There's no question this is the least-anticipated island game on this week's prime-time slate. There's also no question this matchup looks far juicier than it did just a few weeks ago. Back in mid-October, Denver appeared completely hopeless at 1-5, well on its way to a fourth straight season of double-digit losses. But Sean Payton has rallied the Broncos since then, with Denver taking three straight, including a 15-point win vs. the Chiefs and a Monday night road triumph over the Bills. Meanwhile, everyone left the Vikings for dead after Kirk Cousins'season-ending injury. But then Josh Dobbs rode into town and white-knighted Minnesota to consecutive victories, extending the NFL's longest active win streak to five games. So, who do you roll with in a showdown of plucky upstarts? The road underdog, of course.
Vikings 20, Broncos 17 – Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
This is suddenly a game between two teams that have playoff hopes, especially the Vikings. The Broncos won at Buffalo Monday night, thanks to a big-time defensive showing. The Vikings have been winning with defense during their five-game winning streak. That means this will be a low-scoring game, but I think the Vikings will find a way to win it late.
Vikings 27, Broncos 23 – Staff, Bleacher Report
The Vikings haven't lost a game since the second week of October. Quarterback Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles in Week 8, and the Vikings acquired Joshua Dobbs before the Oct. 31 trade deadline. The latter has kept the offense on track with his accuracy and mobility.
In two games with the Vikings, Dobbs has thrown for three touchdowns and rushed for a couple of scores. This week, he may get star wide receiver Justin Jefferson (hamstring) back in action, which would significantly boost Minnesota's aerial attack.
Meanwhile, Denver Broncos Head Coach Sean Payton has helped quarterback Russell Wilson play with efficiency as a complement to a strong ground attack. Denver has averaged 134.8 rushing yards over its previous five outings, and Wilson has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last six games.
Regardless of Jefferson's status, [Bleacher Report NFL analyst Maurice] Moton likes the Vikings to extend their winning streak to six games with the help of an unheralded running back.
"The Vikings have racked up 271 rushing yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks," Moton said. "Minnesota will give Denver a huge dose of its ground attack with Ty Chandler and perhaps Myles Gaskin, who's on the practice squad, if Alexander Mattison doesn't clear concussion protocol.
"Dobbs and Chandler may rack up 150-plus rushing yards combined in a victory," Moton added.
Vikings 24, Broncos 20 – Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
Josh Dobbs is stealing the show with his excellent play operating the offense with Justin Jefferson coming back to help him further. But the sneaky story for the Vikings turnaround is the fact Brian Flores is getting the defense to play over is head in key situations. Minnesota is the better team from the NFC and will show it while Denver is hosting a game on a short week.
Vikings 24, Broncos 23 – Bill Bender, Sporting News
The Joshua Dobbs story is incredible to this point, and the key is the veteran quarterback does not turn the ball over. Denver still has the worst statistical defense in the league, and they struggle most against the run. Will these teams keep winning with role players such as Ty Chandler and T.J. Hockenson? Why not?
7 of 7 experts pick the Vikings, The MMQB
3 of 4 experts (6 of 10 total had not submitted) pick the Vikings, ESPN
"Straight-up consensus" from seven experts: Vikings, Bleacher Report
6 of 12 experts pick the Vikings, The Athletic