Coming off of three straight wins over divisional foes that resurrected their season, it seemed like the Vikings were poised to keep that winning streak going for a while longer. They were entering the "soft" part of their schedule – three straight home games against teams with a combined 6-22 record.
Yet, as we all know, nothing comes easily in the NFL. The Vikings found that out the hard way on Sunday, falling 31-28 in a heartbreaking loss to the Cowboys. Andy Dalton played well, Dallas gashed the Vikings on the ground, and a bunch of plays just didn't quite go Minnesota's way.
Instead of being 5-5, one game out of a playoff spot and riding a four-game winning streak, the playoff hopes of the 4-6 Vikings are on life support. They need to find a way to turn things around and begin another winning streak, starting this Sunday against the 4-7 Panthers.
Like we do every week, let's check in on the national power rankings and see where the Vikings fall. They ranked between 16th and 19th last week.
Gary Gramling, SI.com: No. 16 (Up 1 Spot)
The Vikings had virtually no margin for error if they were going to make the playoffs, and the home loss to Dallas likely does them in. Mike Zimmer's defense has overachieved this year considering the turnover at cornerback and loss of Danielle Hunter, but they gave up too many plays in the fourth quarter of that Cowboys loss.
ESPN.com: No. 19 (Same spot)
What they're thankful for: LBs Eric Wilson and Eric Kendricks
These two are the glue that has held the Vikings' defense together. Kendricks is having another All-Pro-type season while Wilson has emerged in the absence of Anthony Barr and leads all NFL linebackers with three interceptions. Minnesota's defense has experienced constant ups and downs given injuries and the youth/inexperience on the defensive line and in the secondary. Kendricks and Wilson are critical factors in maintaining stability, and Wilson's play on special teams (he blocked an extra point against Dallas) is worth noting, too. – Courtney Cronin
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: No. 16 (No change)
Losing to the Cowboys at home is a damning blow to their playoff chances. The defense let them down in a big way.
Dan Hanzus, NFL.com: No. 16 (No change)
On Sunday against the Cowboys, Kirk Cousins played his best game of the season, Dalvin Cook ran for 100 yards, Justin Jefferson had another long touchdown and Adam Thielen added two scores of his own ... but it all went for naught, because Mike Zimmer's defense took a huge step back. The Cowboys have been one of football's worst offenses since Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury, but Andy Dalton had no issues finding open receivers, while the Minnesota run defense allowed Dallas to pile up 180 yards on the ground. The Vikings kicked away a golden opportunity to move within a game of the Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card race and now put themselves in a position where they might need to win out to extend their season. Not an ideal circumstance.
Bleacher Report: No. 19 (Down 1 spot)
Over the past several weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have built up a decent head of steam. Sunday's tilt with the Dallas Cowboys offered the Vikings a chance to win a fourth straight game and get back to .500.
Instead, many of the same issues that plagued the Vikings during the team's 1-5 start manifested again in a three-point loss.
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: No. 18 (Down 2 spots)
Kirk Cousins threw for 300 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (140.1 passer rating), and still lost to a 2-7 Cowboys team at home. That's really, really hard to do. According to Football Perspective, that's just the fifth time in NFL history a quarterback has posted a rating of at least 140 with 30 pass attempts and his team lost.
Nate Davis, USA Today: No. 21 (Down 3 spots)
Decent chance WR Justin Jefferson can become sixth Minnesota player named offensive rookie of the year during the Super Bowl era, which would be most of any franchise.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: No. 21 (Down 3 spots)
What was that? The Vikings overlooked the resting Cowboys and their pass defense went back to being burned all over the field, all throughout the game. It's such a waste, given what Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are all doing offensively.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: No. 18 (Down 2 spots)
It was fun while it lasted.
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