vikingsfansThe bye week comes at what seems like a pretty good time for the Vikings, who get some extra time to rest, recover from injuries and get new tackle Jake Long up to speed — all while knowing they will spend at least another week as the NFL’s lone undefeated team.

The bye week for Vikings fans, though … well, it might make you a little sad. If Sundays (or Mondays) in the fall are dedicated to the purple, the bye week leaves a void. (Remember when the NFL used to have two bye weeks? How did we even live?)

Fortunately, you still have options this weekend. You could take advantage of a Vikings-less Sunday to take a drive south of the Twin Cites to see peak fall colors (no, really, this is a great idea). Or you could gorge yourself on a football feast consisting of much of the rest of the NFC North.

Here is what the weekend has to offer:

ON TV

You have two options at noon: a pretty good AFC matchup between the Bengals and Patriots (Ch. 4) … or a glimpse at one of the Vikings’ division rivals when the Lions face the Rams (Ch. 9). Detroit is 2-3 coming off a big win over previously undefeated Philadelphia. The Rams are 3-2 but have been outscored 106-82 by opponents. A home victory would put the Lions back at .500 and make them a potential factor going forward, while a loss would be fairly damaging, even this early in the season.

The late afternoon game (3:25 p.m., Ch. 9) is even better: Dallas at Green Bay. When you look at the strength of each division, it stands to reason that the NFC North and NFC East could produce the Wild Card teams in the conference. With Dallas at 4-1 and Green Bay at 3-1, the winner obviously improves its standing while the loser — while not devastated — cedes ground in the long-term playoff hunt.

The Sunday Night game is Colts at Texans (7:20, Ch. 11). Every team in the dismal AFC South has a negative point differential right now. But remember: this is the division the Vikings face from the AFC this year. They’ve already handled the Texans and Titans, with the Colts and Jaguars still on the schedule.

Monday Night is Jets at Cardinals (7:15, ESPN). Arizona is off to a disappointing 2-3 start, but don’t write off the Cardinals yet. They’re yet another team playing on TV this weekend that faces the Vikings later on in the year.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE

*The Bears have a winnable game against the Jaguars. It’s conceivable the entire NFC North could go undefeated while the Vikings are idle.

*The Chiefs/Raiders game could have a significant impact on the AFC West race.

*The Falcons and Seahawks — the other one-loss teams in the NFC aside from the Eagles, Packers and Cowboys — also play each other. So, barring a tie in either of those games, the Vikings will be undefeated after this weekend, and there will only be a maximum of three other one-loss teams in the NFC.

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