It’s hard to believe, but after losing their starting quarterback, starting running back, starting tight end and starting right guard, the Minnesota Vikings are still “in the hunt” for a playoff spot.
Through ten games this season, the Vikings are 4-5 (0-2 in division) and sitting at third in the NFC North Division. With Detroit leading the way at 6-2 (2-0 in division), the Vikings’ odds of walking away with the division title are slim, but they have to be considered in contention for one of the two NFC Wild Card spots.
Now I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes too high. As it stands today, with seven games left to play for most teams, the Vikings are on the outside looking in. With Dallas (6-3) and Seattle (5-3) occupying the Wild Card spots for the NFC, the Vikings will have to do some damage in the second half of their year. The question then, are the Vikings equipped to make a second-half run that pushes them into the threshold of the playoffs?
After an up and down first few weeks of the season, this young Vikings team seems to be figuring some things out and carried the momentum of a two game winning streak into the Bye Week this weekend. Realistically, if it wasn’t for an errant tight end on 4th and 20 against Buffalo, it should be a three game winning streak and a 5-4 record into the Bye. But that’s neither here nor there.
Out of the Bye Week, the Vikings head to Chicago to face division rival the Chicago Bears. Now on one hand, the Vikings track record historically at Soldier Field is nothing to brag about. But on the other hand, the Chicago Bears, once thought to be Super Bowl contenders, are fighting with each other in the locker room and are falling apart even more so on the football field.
Add into that equation the expected return of Pro Bowl Tight End Kyle Rudolph and it gets more interesting. Rudolph, who has missed most of the season with a sports hernia injury, will not only add a dynamic threat to the Vikings passing offense, but his presence should further help the progression of young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Then there’s the potential return of All Pro running back Adrian Peterson who is preparing to enter the mix for the Vikings after missing the past eight games with off the field issues. Having the legal air cleared behind him, the decision for Peterson’s return lies in the hands of Commissioner Roger Goodell and then ultimately the Minnesota Vikings. Given the facts of the matter, his return is expected, it’s just a question of when. Following suit, there’s no doubt that adding Peterson back into the mix would help this team be more dangerous on offense.
So Teddy and the young Vikings continue to get better, the team continues to add valuable pieces to the puzzle, but what’s the outlook for the opponents the rest of the way.
Leaning on ESPN.com’s most recent NFL Power Rankings, here is how the rest of the Vikings schedule shakes out. For a reference point, the Vikings fall in at #23 on this week’s assessment
- In week 11, the Vikings face the 21st ranked Chicago Bears
- Week 12, a home game vs the 8th ranked Green Bay Packers
- Week 13, home against the 22nd ranked Carolina Panthers
- Week 14, home against the 30th ranked New York Jets
- Week 15, at the 6th ranked Detroit Lions
- Week 16, at the 13th ranked Miami Dolphins
- Week 17, home against the 21st ranked Chicago Bears
Trying to stay unbiased, the Vikings could realistically scrounge out four more wins. Will 8-8 be enough to be in the mix for a Wild Card spot?
Historically speaking, no.
Last season, the two wild card teams ended up being the 12-4 San Francisco 49ers and the 11-5 New Orleans Saints. In 2012, it was the 11-5 Seahawks and the 10-6 Vikings filling the Wild Card roles. Then you have to consider the two teams that are currently sitting in those 5th and 6th playoff seeds, Dallas and Seattle. You have to catch up and pass them as well. Currently the Vikings are what would be 2 games and 1 game behind them respectively.
So realistically, the Vikings would have to walk away from the final seven games with another six victories to feel comfortable in a Wild Card spot.
Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not. The likely outcome for this season will be a 7-9 finish with a 17th overall draft pick in the first round. Right in that no-man’s land that nobody desires.
So what would you rather have; A chance, albeit slim, at a Wild Card spot? Or a 3-13 season with a guaranteed Top 10 draft choice?