The Vikings seem to be rolling now, having beaten two contenders in a row while discovering that throwing the ball to your best player is a quality strategy.
At 5-5, they have one game remaining against a winless team (Detroit) and two against perhaps the most dysfunctional team north of Jacksonville (Chicago). Their baseline should be eight victories, with any wins against competent teams, like San Francisco on Sunday, strengthening their playoff positioning.
What could go wrong?
That's a fraught question for Vikings fans, who have seen missed field goals, 12th-man penalties, subtle push-offs and various other unnatural disasters short-circuit prospective championship teams.
If you look at the Vikings' roster, schedule and competition, they should make the 2021 playoffs.
If you look at their list of likely unvaccinated players, you can imagine the worst.
Aaron Rodgers is unvaccinated and contracted COVID-19. One of the Packers' three losses came when he missed a game because of COVID.
The Vikings lost an overtime game in Baltimore when star safety Harrison Smith was unavailable because of COVID. Smith is thought to be unvaccinated.
The Cowboys have lost their last two games, both close decisions, with star receiver Amari Cooper out because he contracted COVID and is unvaccinated.
By the end of the season, the ramifications of key players refusing to get vaccinated and missing games could alter the seeding of the NFC playoffs, if not derail a champion.
The Packers could lose a home playoff game or the bye that goes to the top-seeded team.
The Cowboys could lose a home playoff game, the No. 1 seed or even the division title.
The Vikings could miss the playoffs.
Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., the Vikings will play the 49ers, who have regained their power-running prowess and won their last two games by a combined 61-20.
Everson Griffen, who was the Vikings' best healthy defensive end, is unavailable while receiving mental health care. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce, perhaps the team's best run-stopper, is on injured reserve along with end Danielle Hunter.
Dalvin Tomlinson may have been the best run-stopper available to the Vikings this week, but he will miss the game because of COVID. He is believed to be unvaccinated.
Know who else is believed to be unvaccinated?
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, star running back Dalvin Cook and star receiver Adam Thielen.
More than 94% of NFL players are estimated to be vaccinated. The percentage of unvaccinated NFL players may be roughly proportional to the percentage of Americans who believe John F. Kennedy Jr. is about to visit Dealey Plaza.
Unvaccinated players aren't merely anti-science. They're anti-team. Take it from someone who is watching a player he is paying $100 million damage his franchise: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"Nobody is saying he isn't outstanding, but this is a classic case of how it can impact a team," Jones said of Cooper. "At the end of the day, this is team. You cannot win anything individually …
"The point is, it popped us."
Jones said Cooper probably would have been able to avoid missing games had he been vaccinated. "The facts are, it is a 'we' thing when you walk into the locker room," Jones said. "And anybody is being counted on to pull his weight. Everybody expects that. They look around at each other. They understand their rights. They do, we do. Everybody understands our rights, and our options as it pertains to those rights.''
Cousins, Cook, Thielen, Smith and Tomlinson have the right to refuse vaccinations. We have the right to blame them if their irresponsibility costs their team or infects others.
Cousins' unwillingness to get vaccinated hangs over this team like the ghost of missed kicks past.
He has been seen around the Vikings' facility without wearing a mask. He is playing at a career peak. His backup is Sean Mannion, signed only because he is affordable.
Smith's decision might have cost the Vikings a game. Tomlinson's could cost them another. If Cousins misses a game or two, he could ruin his team's season.