The Minnesota Vikings are off to a 3-0 start after losing Teddy Bridgewater and trading for Sam Bradford. The primary reason, though, is the defense, which has not only held teams, but created turnovers and scoring opportunities. The Vikings–both with Adrian Peterson and now without him–have set the record for the fewest rushing yards by a 3-0 team since the merger. The offense is averaging less than 270 yards a game. The defense has created 9 turnovers in three games against teams with Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers, and Cam Newton at QB, while the offense has only turned the ball over once.
The positive is that they have done so against a very good schedule. The negative, to the extent that a 3-0 start can have one, is that teams that win the way the Vikings have tend to not win as many games over the rest of the season as those who got off to 3-0 starts without big turnover differentials.
There are 19 teams since 1990 that have gotten off to a 3-0 start, with a turnover differential of +7 or better, besides Minnesota. Those other 19 teams averaged 6.7 wins and 6.3 losses over the remainder of the season, winning just over half the remaining games. Twelve of the 19 reached the postseason, but only the 1996 Packers reached (and won) a Super Bowl.
Compare that to the opposite spectrum. The 3-0 teams that started with a +1 turnover differential or worse (25 teams) won 7.6 and lost 5.4 games on average, a 59% winning percentage. Twenty of the 25 made the postseason, and six of them reached the Super Bowl. Baltimore and Denver both fall in this range this year in terms of turnover margin with an undefeated start.
Minnesota has a great young defense, and is making their case to be considered among the best in the league. The offense has “done enough.” To move from a great start, to a great finish, the offense will have to improve, because history shows that relying on turnovers to fuel a hot start is not the best recipe for sustained success.