Two weeks ago, the Vikings were 1-3 and reeling from an ugly home loss against the Browns. They were heading into a game against the Lions that could've signaled the end of the Mike Zimmer era if it had resulted in a loss. Things were pretty bleak.
Two dramatic, occasionally unwatchable, often unbelievable, harder-than-they-should've-been, rollercoaster victories later, the 3-3 Vikings would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. They went from collapsing to surviving against both the Lions and Panthers, finishing off Carolina in overtime on Sunday after a ridiculous game.
Here's a look at the current NFC playoff picture through six weeks.
The Vikings hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Panthers and a division record tiebreaker against the Bears (the Vikings are 1-0 against NFC North opponents, while the Bears are 1-1 after losing to the Packers). Even if the Seahawks win on Sunday Night Football, the Vikings will remain in the No. 7 spot because of a head-to-head tiebreaker there.
Suddenly, the Vikings are right back in the mix with 11 games left.
“3-3," Mike Zimmer said. "I mean, could we better? Yeah. Could we be worse? Yeah. We are where we are. But I like the resiliency of this team. They fight. I thought there were so many times we should have put the game away today, and we didn’t do that. So we still have to get where we get to the point where we get a team down, and we put them away. We didn’t do that today. That’s something we’ll keep talking about, keep working on and trying to fix."
The Vikings now have a bye week to regroup and try to continue improving. Then the schedule starts to get really tough.
Minnesota's first game after the bye is against the 5-1 Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football. The stadium should be rocking on Halloween night for a marquee matchup. Dallas has won five in a row after knocking off the Patriots on a walkoff overtime touchdown of their own this week. Both teams will be coming off a bye.
After that, the Vikings have road games against the 5-1 Ravens and 4-2 Chargers. The Ravens beat the Chargers 34-6 on Sunday. Then the Vikings will come back home for their second division game of the year, this one against the 5-1 Packers, who have also won five in a row.
It's a tough schedule, but if the Vikings can ever get their offense and defense clicking at the same time, they have the look of a team that can play with just about anyone. After all, they were one field goal away from beating the Cardinals on the road, and Arizona is currently the NFL's only unbeaten team at 6-0.
"They’ve got to play us, too," Dalvin Cook said. "That’s the thing when you look at it, everybody is going to say ‘what about the other teams?’ Well, what about the Vikings? That’s how we look at it. What about the Vikings? They’ve gotta look at us too. We’re a good team, too. Not to pull on our coattails or anything but that’s how we look at it."
At the very least, the Vikings have given themselves a chance by finding ways to win against the Lions and Panthers. They're right back in the mix and control their own destiny with 11 games left to play.
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