While most of the focus in the NFC North has been on the Green Bay Packers this season, the Minnesota Vikings have been winning games and steadily creeping up in the power rankings. They’re only one win away from the top of the division, and they just made themselves look like even more of a powerhouse by beating the Dallas Cowboys (who’d begun looking like contenders as well).
As it stands now, the Vikings would be a sixth seed in the NFL Playoffs, but they still have to play the impressive Seattle Seahawks (and the Packers again). If they can keep winning late in the season, however, Minnesota might just go farther than any of us expected. You may not want to count them out of a Super Bowl appearance just yet, and you might want to go ahead and get those Vikings tickets while you can…
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Let’s Recap that Vikings Win Over the Cowboys
The Vikings have now won five out of their last six games. Even if their record hasn’t been perfect this season, Week 10 brought them within reach of that playoff seed with a 28-24 victory over the Cowboys. This road win was huge for the team, and fans are hoping that it gives them some momentum heading into their final six games. But it was also big for the Vikings’ defense as well as quarterback Kirk Cousins who has struggled during primetime games against quality opponents.
Against the Cowboys, Cousins continued his relatively strong (if not flashy) season with two touchdowns, completing 23 of 32 passes for 220 yards. He’s now 2-0 in those primetime games, which is good news for the Vikings because they’ve got three more on the schedule! Other offensive highlights included tailback Dalvin Cook’s touchdown and 183 yards along with Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph’s two touchdown passes (including a ridiculous one-hander). And all of this happened while star wide receiver Adam Thielen sat out with a hamstring injury.
As for defense, linebacker Eric Kendricks shined, making a key stop at fourth-and-five when he broke up a pass to Ezekial Elliot and stifled a last minute comeback by the Cowboys. Kendricks now leads league linebackers with 11 passes defended.
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The game wasn’t perfect for the Vikings though. While the defense managed to contain Elliot and the Cowboy’s rushing attack, they struggled to defend the pass when it came to Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper (who played incredibly well that night, BTW). The Vikings’ starting cornerback Trae Waynes was out with an ankle injury and backup Mike Hughes struggled badly against Prescott, giving up 10 Cowboys receptions, a touchdown, and several conversions (like nine of ‘em) on third down. The defense will need to work on improving the pass rush and putting more pressure on the quarterback if they want to keep winning. On a positive note, however, the Vikings currently rank among the top five NFL scoring defenses.
Along with Thielen and Waynes, nose tackle Linval Joseph is the third starting Vikings player who’s currently injured, although word has it that Waynes may return in their upcoming home game against the Denver Broncos. (Hey, the Broncos are 10.5-point underdogs so Minnesota may be able to win at least one more game without these key guys.) The Vikings also have a bye in Week 12 to help everybody get healthy again, so fans are hopeful that all of the starters will be back in action against the Seahawks in Week 13.
What This Means for the Vikings’ Playoffs Hopes
We’ve said it a lot, but the NFC is a tough battlefield right now. Getting the win against Dallas and moving to 7-3 gives the Vikings a little wiggle room compared to some of the other playoff hopefuls like the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, and the struggling Carolina Panthers, who are all sitting at 5-4.
If the current NFC playoff picture stands, that’ll put the number-six Vikings against the number-three New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round. While the Saints aren’t nearly as scary-looking as they were before their surprise loss to the Atlanta Falcons recently, nobody really wants to go down and play them in New Orleans in the postseason. This is especially true for the Vikings, who play much better at home than in domes on the road.
Most sports gurus agree that the Vikings’ biggest test is that upcoming Seahawks game. And if they really want to make a run in this year’s playoffs, they’d do well to try to steal the NFC North division title away from the Packers. It would certainly make the Vikings’ road through the postseason much less treacherous, but we’ll have to keep watching to see if they can do it!