The 2023 NFL season has been quite an amusement park, and a couple of rides have drawn crowds.
This year's main attraction has been the quarterback carousel. Through 14 weeks, 16 teams have deployed 23 different quarterbacks (who have started at least one game) who were not the team's Week 1 starter.
Those numbers will increase to 17 and 25, respectively, this week. Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell announced Tuesday the team will start Nick Mullens. The Los Angeles Chargers will start Easton Stick after Justin Herbert suffered a season-ending fractured finger during Sunday's game against Denver.
Meanwhile, the current playoff race is similar to bumper cars. With just four games remaining in the regular season, 30 teams are still mathematically jostling for postseason position. Although the NFL didn't add a 17th game and 18th week to the regular-season schedule until 2021, this year marks the most teams in the playoff race at this point of the season since the field was expanded to 14 teams in 2020.
The AFC currently has 11 teams with a winning record, including six with a record of 7-6 (both the most for a conference through Week 14 since 1970). On the NFC side, five teams boast a winning record, with the Vikings being the only team with a 7-6 mark. The NFC, however, has five teams with a 6-7 record, including three in the NFC South.
Minnesota will face one of those AFC teams with an identical record on a short week, as the Vikings travel to Cincinnati to battle the Bengals on Saturday.
Minnesota and Cincinnati have met 14 times in their history, with both teams notching seven wins apiece. Home-field advantage has been a key factor, however, as the Vikings are 6-0 when hosting the Bengals compared to 1-7 on the road. Minnesota's only road victory came in 1992, a 42-7 final.
Cincinnati claimed the most recent meeting, as the Bengals edged the Vikings 27-24 in overtime to open the 2021 season.
Let's see who the experts are picking to win the game:
Bengals 22, Vikings 20 – Brooke Cersosimo, NFL.com
Minnesota is handing the keys to yet another quarterback (Nick Mullens) this season. Kevin O'Connell had to change something after last week's dud. Mullens, whose last start came in Week 15 of 2021, apparently will have Justin Jefferson back on the field, but will that be enough? It doesn't feel all that promising, considering Jake Browning and the Bengals have scored 34 points in back-to-back wins. Shoot, even if Brian Flores' defense continues its stingy streak — allowing just 15 points per game since Week 6 (tops in the NFL) — can Minnesota's offense even score enough to exceed that low bar?
Bengals 23, Vikings 17 – Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
The Bengals have won two straight to get back into the playoff race behind Jake Browning. The Vikings won 3-0 over the Raiders last week, which tells you all you need to know about the offense. Nick Mullens will be the starter this week after coming off the bench last week for Joshua Dobbs. It won't matter. Browning will play well and lead the Bengals to a third consecutive victory.
Bengals 26, Vikings 21 – Staff, Bleacher Report
Last week, in the fourth quarter of a 0-0 stalemate with the Las Vegas Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings benched quarterback Joshua Dobbs for Nick Mullens, and it worked out in their favor. Mullens led the offense into field-goal range, and Greg Joseph sealed the deal with a game-winning kick.
The Vikings have named Mullens the starter for Saturday's contest, and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell is hopeful that star wide receiver Justin Jefferson will suit up after he went down with a chest injury last week. Running back Alexander Mattison and right tackle Brian O'Neill [have been ruled out] with ankle injuries.
Bengals 24, Vikings 14 – Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
The Bengals have a quarterback revelation without Joe Burrow thanks to Jake Browning balling in their system. The Bengals defense also is playing more inspired, and the Vikings don't have enough to slow down Browning's skill players.
Bengals 24, Vikings 17 – Bill Bender, Sporting News
Jake Browning has an 82% completion percentage in his last two starts, and the Bengals have enough talent to make a run to the AFC playoffs. Minnesota (92.9) ranks in the top five in rush defense, but the tandem of Joe Mixon and Chase Brown – a late-season fantasy game – will be enough against a Vikings team that is shuffling quarterbacks, too.
0 of 7 experts pick the Vikings, The MMQB
0 of 6 experts (4 of 10 total had not submitted) pick the Vikings, ESPN
"Straight-up consensus" from seven experts: Bengals, Bleacher Report
2 of 12 experts pick the Vikings, The Athletic