When you dig yourself into a hole early in the season, it takes a lot to get out. The Vikings earned a huge win over the Packers on Sunday to get back to .500, but they have to keep stacking victories down the stretch if they want to reach the playoffs.
"We have the ability, if we continue to put things together, continue to work – we just have to keep going," Mike Zimmer said. "We can’t be satisfied to be 5-5."
This week brings a road game against a talented 49ers team, and it's a massive one for the NFC wild card race. Both the Vikings and 49ers sit at 5-5 right now, so whoever wins this will have a big head-to-head tiebreaker over the other for a potential playoff spot.
Here's how big this game is for the Vikings. FiveThirtyEight's projections give them a 59 percent chance to make the playoffs as things stand right now (Football Outsiders and ESPN's FPI are both slightly lower at roughly 55 percent). If they beat the 49ers, that number jumps to 82 percent. Lose, and it falls to 42 percent. That's a gigantic swing.
The race for the final two spots in the NFC postseason is going to be a heated one. The 49ers (7th), Saints (9th), Vikings (11th), and Eagles (12th) all rank within the top 12 in the NFL in DVOA after 11 weeks. The Eagles are a half-game back at 5-6, but have won three of their last four and have the easiest remaining schedule in the league, so they're going to be in the mix until the end. That makes it critically important for the Vikings to win this game against the 49ers on Sunday, getting to 6-5 and picking up a huge tiebreaker.
Not only that, but if the Vikings beat the 49ers and Lions and the Packers lose to the Rams before their bye week, Minnesota would enter Week 13 at 7-5, just one game back of the 8-4 Packers with a game remaining against them.
It's not going to be easy. The Niners have also won three of their last four, including two straight by 20-plus. They have a very talented roster on both sides of the ball and get the advantage of playing at home this week. But if the Vikings continue playing like they have for the past couple weeks, this game should come down to the wire once again. Finding a way to win it would be enormous for their playoff chances.
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