Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced twice during his Monday news conference that Sunday’s 26-23 loss at Kansas City was, and we quote, “not the end of the world.”
He does make a valid point.
First of all, it’s a game. So, duh.
Secondly, for fans who treat the NFL as more than a game, your Vikings aren’t exactly in dire straits with seven games left in a wide-open conference with many good teams but no Belichickian dynasties.
So, as that famous State Farm spokesperson from Green Bay once said a few years back, “R-E-L-A-X.”
The NFC has nine teams with a winning record. Any one of them could advance to the Super Bowl. And any one of them could lose to the one-win Jets, as Dallas did; the one-win Falcons, as Philadelphia did; the two-win Bucs, as the Rams and Carolina did; the three-win Bears, as the Vikings did; and the four-win Chargers, as the Packers just did.
The 49ers (8-0), Saints (7-1) and Seahawks (7-2) are the only NFC teams with a winning record that haven’t lost to a team with a current losing record. But let’s not crown any one of them just yet.
Six of the 49ers’ wins have come against teams at .500 or below. Five were against the Bucs, Browns, Redskins, Cardinals and winless Bengals.
The Seahawks beat the Browns and Bengals by a combined five points. They’re 1-2 against teams with a current winning record.
And while the Saints look solid overall and deepest at quarterback, they haven’t faced a playoff contender since September and Drew Brees’ amazing comeback has only been tested by Tampa Bay.
Right now, the top-nine pecking order in the NFC is: San Francisco, New Orleans, Green Bay (7-2), Seattle, the Vikings (6-3), Dallas (5-3) Rams (5-3), Carolina (5-3) and Philadelphia (5-4).
Here are how their remaining strengths of schedule rank:
1. Seahawks (.698); 2. 49ers (.640); 3. Rams (.597); 4. Cowboys (.551); 5. Vikings (.542); 6. Panthers (.537); 7. Packers (.483); 8. Saints (.477); and 9. Eagles (.426).
Here are how many games each has left against teams with current winning records:
1. 49ers (six of eight, three on the road) and Seahawks (six of seven, four road); 3. Rams (five of eight, three road), Cowboys (five of eight, two road) and Panthers (five of eight, three road); 6. Saints (four of eight, one road); 7. Vikings (three of seven, two road), Packers (three of seven, two road) and Eagles (three of seven, no road).
So, yeah, things as they appear now very well could change two months from now. For instance, right now, the 49ers are atop the pile with the league’s only undefeated record.
They also play Seattle twice and travel to Baltimore and New Orleans.
Right now, the Seahawks are in the No. 2 seed.
They have the 49ers twice and travel to the Rams, Panthers and Eagles.
On the flip side …
Right now, the Eagles are ninth in the NFC. They’re 3-4 in the conference.
They play the Giants twice, the Redskins and Dolphins once, and don’t have a road game left against a team with a current winning record.
Right now, the Panthers are eighth in the NFC. They’re 2-3 in the conference.
They have an upcoming four-week stretch in which they play the Falcons twice and the Redskins once.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, people are fretting mainly over three remaining prime-time road games at Dallas, Seattle and the Chargers.
First, Dallas lost to the Jets, who lost to the Dolphins.
Second, Seattle beat the 0-8 Bengals by a single point at home.
Third, the Chargers are a sub-.500 team with zero home-field advantage. They’ll be facing a Vikings team whose fan base just took control of Arrowhead Stadium in the fourth quarter of a one-score game.
The Vikings also have four home games, three of them against current sub.-500 teams Denver, Detroit and Chicago. And the potentially huge game that could decide the NFC North is at home against the Packers in prime time.
At best, there’s a ton to like about how the second half of the season stacks up for the Vikings in comparison to the other top nine teams in the conference. At worst, there’s no reason to panic because a four-game win streak was snapped.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Zimmer said. “We’ll be all right.”
He’s got a point.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org