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A TED Talk, Week 14

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The marathon now is now a sprint to the finish

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Hi gang, and a Happy Victory Tuesday to you all. How are we feeling about the win Sunday?

You know, I try very hard not to be the guy that complains about a win. A win is a win, and they’re hard to come by. Was the game boring? Yeah, most of the second half was snooze inducing, which is fine, because there literally wasn’t a single moment during the game where I thought the Vikings were in trouble. I rarely feel that way about Vikings games, so I’ll gladly take it.

It was like watching an anaconda slowly squeeze the life out of its prey. It took awhile, it didn’t seem like much was happening after the first few moments, but you knew that the outcome was going to be inevitable.

On Sunday we learned that the Vikings can handle an inferior opponent even if they were slow and methodical about it, and they started the last quarter of the season off on the right foot. If you look at 2019 like a cross country race, the Vikings just kept their pace through the Detroit game, slightly ahead of the pack, but a few paces behind the leaders. Now the season long marathon becomes a sprint to the finish, so it’s time to kick it into high gear, leave the pack, and go like hell through the finish line.

The Vikings are 9-4, and currently hold the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture. They sit one game behind the division leading Packers, and hopes of winning the NFC North and hosting at least one playoff game are still very much alive. And heck, it’s a longshot, but they aren’t mathematically eliminated from getting a bye, either.

Minnesota controls their own destiny for getting into the playoffs as a wildcard, they’ll need a little bit of help to catch and pass Green Bay to get a home game, and a lot more help before we can seriously think about a bye as a one or two seed. With three divisional games left for the Packers, winning the NFC North is not out of the realm of possibility, especially after they looked sluggish while outlasting a 3-10 Washington Redskins team.

There is no scenario where the Vikings can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, but if they beat the Chargers, and the Rams lose to Dallas, that puts the Vikings up two games with two to play. The Rams play the 49ers on the road after Dallas, so that would seemingly give the Vikings a decided advantage in the race for the sixth seed.

The bad news is that the Vikings could, conceivably, end up at 10-6 or 11-5 and miss the playoffs, depending on the result of other games. I’ll get into it more when I do my playoff post later, but the Bears and Rams are far from out of it, and depending on how things shake out, they could both bypass Minnesota, and a 10 or 11 win Vikings team would be at home for the playoffs. So in this final sprint to the finish, there is no margin for error, and there are no games to take for granted.

In short, the Vikings can’t afford another clunker, as it would be akin to inviting Nate Poole over for Sunday dinner to reminisce about old times.

But, back to good news! The Vikings have the talent and the team to run the table, finish 12-4, and guarantee a playoff spot. On offense, the line seems to be gelling, the Vikings are doing a good job of managing Dalvin Cook’s workload, and it looks like Adam Thielen will return this week. The defense looked much, much better against the Lions, and that’s very encouraging. The Vikings appear to be getting healthy and in sync at the right time, Kirk Cousins is slinging the ball, and right now there is no ‘win and get some help’ scoreboard watching the Vikings need to do to make the playoffs; it’s all on them. They’ll need some help to win the division, but that’s still on the table.

They have one road game left, a very winnable one against the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers in LA, and then they finish off at home with the Packers and Bears. These road games are historically tricky ones for the Vikings, but they have a chance to end up going 4-4 away from US Bank Stadium, and their three road wins this year have been fairly convincing ones against lesser caliber teams.

It all begins Sunday by taking care of business against the Chargers.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.