I genuinely don't know how the Vikings keep getting away with allowing every game to come down to the very end. They did it again on Sunday, when a 20-3 first half lead turned into a 27-22 game in which the Jets had two late drives where they could've completed the comeback.
The Vikings survived thanks to another game-sealing interception. Their defense, which was gashed once again for nearly 500 yards, continues to stiffen in the big moments: third downs, red zone situations, and crunch time. The Vikings are now 9-0 in one-score games, and at this point, that can't just be luck.
"I don’t think it’s an accident that our team continues finding ways to win and doing enough to win," Kevin O'Connell said on Monday. "The important thing is in those moments, whether it is situational football, understanding how clock management and how our team plays a role in that in all three phases. How we can play smart aggressive football, but also understand that we’re setting ourselves up to do those things to win those games in the end?
"I feel like our guys are confident that we’re going to win those games because they’ve done it and they’ve proven it."
The Vikings still have plenty to work on. The offense stalled in the third quarter and the defense has to figure out how to stop being shredded through the air. Incredibly, the 10-2 Vikings are underdogs heading into this weekend's game against the 5-7 Lions, whose last six games consist of four wins and a couple narrow losses against the Dolphins and Bills.
With a win, the Vikings can clinch the NFC North with four weeks still to play.
Let's take our weekly look at the national power rankings to see where the Vikings slot and what various analysts thought of their latest Houdini act.
Conor Orr, SI.com: No. 6 (No change)
When the Vikings are completing deep YOLO balls to Jalen Reagor against one of the best secondaries in the NFL, you know it might be their year. In all seriousness, what has become clear to me is that you have to play the Vikings almost perfectly in order to beat them, and there are only a select few teams in the NFL with the right scheme and personnel. AND…even then, they can still find a way to get Justin Jefferson into a good matchup once and throw a quick touchdown on the board.
Bo Wulf, The Athletic: No. 6 (Up 2 spots)
Embrace the magic. When people say things like, “The Vikings have the worst point differential of any team in the past 20 years with at least 10 wins through 13 weeks,” there’s an instinct to get defensive. When someone points out that Minnesota ranks 20th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), 18th in offensive EPA per drive (per TruMedia) and 17th in defensive EPA per drive, you might want to look for bias. When another person says the Vikings’ perfect 9-0 record in games decided by eight points or fewer is unsustainable or that one more Mike White completion would have cost Minnesota a game in which it was outgained by 199 yards, they probably don’t understand the team’s will to win.
All of that is fine! Just because the underlying metrics might not say great things about the Vikings’ quality doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ride of overperformance. And if Justin Jefferson and company can nab the NFC’s top seed — Mock’s model gives them a 9.3 percent chance to do so — this could absolutely be a Super Bowl team. Well, maybe not with Kirk Cousins.
Dan Hanzus, NFL.com: No. 6 (Up 1 spots)
The Vikings’ astounding success in one-score games (9-0) continued Sunday with another narrow win, this time a 27-22 conquest against a stubborn young Jets team. The Vikings won because their defense stood strong in the red zone, holding New York to one touchdown in six trips inside the Minnesota 20. You can’t argue with the Vikings’ record, but Kirk Cousins will need to play better if Minnesota is to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. The veteran missed some layups against the Jets and continues to perform at levels below his career norms. Does that mean a hot streak is coming for one of the NFL’s most consistent producers? We wouldn’t bet against it.
ESPN Staff: No. 5 (Up 1 spot)
We're No. 1 in ... wins by one possession.
Nine of the Vikings' 10 victories this season have been decided by one possession (eight points or fewer). In fact, they are the first team in NFL history to start a season with a 9-0 record in such games. (Their other victory, in Week 1 against the Packers, came by a margin of 16 points.) One interpretation here is that the Vikings are quite fortunate to have won as many games as they have. Another is that they're primed for the postseason, where games are often competed into the final minute. — Kevin Seifert
Austin Gayle, The Ringer: No. 7 (No change)
Tier 3: Flawed Postseason Contenders
Kirk Cousins had an uncharacteristically inaccurate performance and star wideout Justin Jefferson was held under 50 receiving yards in Sunday’s win against the Jets. Nine of the Vikings’ 10 wins this season have been by one score—and the Vikings are proving to come up big in clutch time, as Cam Bynum’s late interception of Mike White clinched the win against New York. There’s a gap between the Vikings and the two teams they’ve lost to (Eagles and Cowboys), but they’re still the third-best team in the NFC right now.
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: No. 6 (Up 1 spot)
The Vikings are an interesting case. Analytics think they're average. Their point differential is only +10. They're 9-0 in one-score games, tying the 2019 Seahawks for the most one-score wins in the first 12 games since 1940, via NFL Media. On top of that all, they're underdogs against the Lions in Week 14. Yet, they keep winning, and 10-2 is impressive no matter how it happens. Are you buying the Vikings?
Bleacher Report Staff: No. 4 (Up 2 spots)
At some point, the analytics community has to let go of the DVOA argument and just acknowledge that the Vikings are good. No, they don't rank atop major statistical categories on defense, but they have found ways to win. The Vikings have the fourth-most takeaways after they added two more. Minnesota also scored 27 points against the Gang Green defense, which had ranked in the top five in yards and points allowed before Sunday.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: No. 5 (Up 1 spot)
They are 10-2, but there are still questions about this team. The defense has to be better.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: No. 5 (Up 1 spot)
The Vikings continue to be disrespected because they do have defensive issues with an inconsistent yet sometimes explosive offense. It's true they tend to win a lot of close games, home or away, including the Jets' contest, but that's a testament to their tougher and more confident mental makeup under rookie coach Kevin O'Connell.
Mike Florio, PFT: No. 6 (Up 1 spot)
They keep finding a way when it matters most.
Nate Davis, USA Today: No. 7 (No change)
The AFC East might be the NFL's best division, but Minnesota went 4-0 against it. Beat Detroit this Sunday, and rookie HC Kevin O'Connell will not only wrap up the NFC North crown, he'll be riding a three-week winning streak over teams he played for (Patriots, Jets).
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