In a different Vikings season, it would feel like an exercise in rationalizing or excuse-making to not worry too much about Sunday's 31-24 loss at Carolina.

This year, though, the big picture makes it feel like the loss — while frustrating and potentially damaging — was both excusable and not the end of the world.

If you had asked pretty much any Vikings fan — and probably players, coaches and executives as well — if they would be happy with a 4-1 record against the rough slate of games Minnesota had coming out of the bye, they would say "absolutely."

They Vikings not only survived a tough stretch of games, they thrived. They're still very much in line for a first-round bye, with two of their final three games at home against Cincinnati and Chicago.

Past Vikings seasons have told us not to look too far ahead. This year's team needs to keep heeding that lesson.

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