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The NFC playoff picture is very crowded right now. At the very top of the NFC, you have the Saints and Rams, who both have a record of 10-1. Then, coming off their Thanksgiving Day win, the Chicago Bears who comfortably lead the NFC North. The remaining teams in the playoff hunt have been models of inconsistency all season.

The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a loss, in a game versus the Bears where they could’ve taken the lead in the NFC North. Entering this week’s game versus the Packers, Minnesota has lost two of its last three games. Many are questioning whether the Vikings are pretenders or contenders in the competitive NFC.

Of their five wins this season, none have come against an opponent who currently has a winning record. Despite being unable to defeat good teams this year, the Vikings will make the playoffs. Minnesota isn’t the team we expected them to be entering the season, but they’re still good enough to make the playoffs.

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Here are three reasons why the Vikings will make the playoffs:

Control Their Destiny

Since the Vikings already occupy the sixth wild spot, their play will determine whether or not they’ll make the playoffs. They don’t have to rely on the outcomes of other games to secure a playoff spot. Also, the Vikings still have a chance to win the NFC North.

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Here’s a tweet from the Vikings on their current playoff situation.

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In the loss column, the Vikings only trail the Bears by one game. Not to mention, week 17 could provide a winner take all game, as the Vikings host the Bears. Now, Minnesota would need the Bears to lose a couple of games for that week 17 game to matter. The best chances of Chicago losing are weeks 14 and 15 when Chicago faces the Rams, followed by the Packers who already beat them this season.

Another reason Minnesota controls its destiny is that they could own the tiebreaker over two teams still in the playoff hunt. Sunday night if the Vikings defeat the Packers they’ll win the season series because the two teams tied in their first matchup. Additionally, in week 14, on Monday Night Football, Minnesota plays the Seahawks who are also in the playoff hunt.

Offense Hasn’t Reached Full Potential

Limited 3 Ii Stitched White Bulldogs Gurley Jersey College Sec Todd Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few weeks, the Vikings offense has been sporadic. Kirk Cousins and the passing attack hasn’t been as efficient as they were at the beginning of the season. No more evident than the production drop from Adam Thelin. Thelin started the season with eight straight hundred yard games, but in the last two games, he hasn’t even eclipsed over 75 yards.

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The Vikings may possess the best receiver tandem in the NFL. The tandem of Thelin and Stefon Diggs is a difficult cover for any defense. Thelin is more of the possession wide receiver, while Diggs is the elusive deep threat. Both can play in the slot or on the outside. Minnesota needs to rekindle what they were doing in the first five games of the season when they averaged 338 passing yards a game.

Nonetheless, with so many stars on the offensive side of the ball, Minnesota has not yet peaked on offense. They are still searching to find a consistent running game. Much of that can attribute to Dalvin Cook’s injuries for the majority of the season. A glimpse of a productive running game was seen in Cook’s return versus the Lions, where he rushed for 89 yards on just ten carriers. A balanced attack on offense could unlock the full potential of this Vikings offense.

Defense is Returning to Form

Last year the Vikings defense was ranked number one in nearly every defensive category. So entering this year, we expect the defense to be just as dominant. However, in the first four games of the season, the defense was allowing 381 yards and 28 points per game, including, giving up 27 points to a Bills offense that ranks last in points scored per game.

But recently the defense is starting to look similar to how it did last season. Minnesota ranks number five regarding yards allowed per game. Also, Minnesota ranks top ten in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game.

Limited 3 Ii Stitched White Bulldogs Gurley Jersey College Sec Todd In this recent three-game stretch, the Vikings defense has not allowed over two hundred yards passing in any game. One of those games featured, MVP candidate Drew Brees. When the Vikings make the playoffs as a wild card, they’ll have to play their playoff game on the road. An elite defense will help the Vikings if they look to pull an upset in the playoffs.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked during his press conference Friday was the defensive due to the changes he made or players stepping up.

Limited 3 Ii Stitched White Bulldogs Gurley Jersey College Sec Todd “I think its a little bit of both, but the players have been playing well,” Zimmer said.

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