Focus. Tunnel vision. Concentration.
Call it what you will, Leslie Frazier has loads of it right now.
That's why last week, when the Vikings coach was asked to consider a five-day stretch that could prove as intense and pivotal as any this season, he could only see so far as Sunday, locked in on his team's three-hour scrap with Arizona.
Frazier knows a quick turnaround awaits Thursday against Tampa Bay.
But thinking too far ahead seems to give him vertigo. That's why as questions came this week about the logistics of the Sunday-Thursday double dip, Frazier grabbed the podium for support.
"Some guys are able to move ahead," he said. "I'm not one of them. Never was. Even as an assistant. It's hard for me to even think about the other team [and the other game]. Some guys on our staff may be able to do that [and may] try to get a jump ahead. And I didn't discourage that. I just wanted to make sure we all understand there is no game more important than this week's game."
So far, Frazier's myopic approach has been good for these Vikings. As a young team making a steep climb back toward NFL relevance, the Vikings have been much more comfortable securing their harnesses each week and concentrating fully on each movement.
Still, in a span of 100 hours or so, the 4-2 Vikings will sprint to the midpoint of their season with a pair of winnable contests.
Both are at Mall of America Field.
Talk about a golden opportunity.
The Cardinals never have won inside the Metrodome. Their last franchise win in the Twin Cities was a 27-7 victory at Met Stadium in 1977. And if you don't believe such distant history will affect today's game, consider the past three weeks. In that time, the Arizona offense has given up 22 sacks while averaging only 14 points.
Oh, and in their two road games, the Cardinals have scored two touchdowns on 24 possessions.
In other words, if the Vikings play with their usual blend of effort and intelligence, Sunday's game is theirs to take.
As for that Thursday nighter with Tampa Bay? Well, since Week 2, home teams have won five of the six Thursday games, early evidence that the quick turnaround might be significantly harder on the teams forced to travel. (Last season, road teams were 2-7 in the Sunday-to-Thursday flip.)
That's why these next five days are so critical.
Two Vikings triumphs would move then to 6-2, their 2011 win total doubled before Halloween. Even a split would produce a midseason mark of 5-3. That is important, because once November arrives there are reasons to believe the early-season giddiness could soon give way to aggravation.
• Week 9, at Seattle: The Seahawks are unbeaten at CenturyLink Field, with eye-opening victories over the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots.
• Weeks 10-14: The Vikings play four consecutive division games, including a home-and-away set with the first-place Bears and a Dec. 2 trip into Lambeau Field.
• Weeks 15-16: Consecutive road games at St. Louis and Houston. The revived Rams are also undefeated at home this season. And the 5-1 Texans might still be the class of the AFC. This will also conclude a stretch in which the Vikings play five of seven contests away from home. (Is now a bad time to mention the Vikings are 6-20 in their past 26 regular-season games played away from the Twin Cities?)
• Week 17: A season finale against the Packers at home, stakes yet unknown.
So maybe Frazier has it right. When the road ahead appears so treacherous, perhaps it is much safer and wiser to become nearsighted. Either way, these next five days will significantly affect the mood and momentum of this season.
Dan Wiederer • firstname.lastname@example.org