It's been nearly a decade since a team other than the Green Bay Packers won back-to-back NFC North titles. You have to go all the way back to 2008 and 2009 when the Vikings won the division with Gus Frerotte and Brett Favre at quarterback. Since 2010 the Packers have been crowned division champs five times, while the Vikings won it once in 2015.
So what's it going to take for the Vikings to reclaim the North?
"I believe we have everything we need. It just comes down to being consistent," linebacker Eric Kendricks said on NFL Network. "Last year we showed flashes and we showed flashes of being bad, too. We gotta be consistent. We gotta take the opportunity to make the play when we're presented the play. We gotta know the situations of the game, late in the game. We gotta take care of crucial situations and finish games out. We had a lot of games where we lost by 1 or 2 points, and that's the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. We gotta be more consistent on our end."
True. The Vikings lost three games by 6 points or fewer last season. The first came in an overtime loss to the Lions where the defense allowed a game-tying field goal in what looked like a surefire victory, and then lost in OT. The second was a 3-point loss in Detroit on Thanksgiving followed by a 2-point loss to the Cowboys. Had those games gone the Vikings' way they would've finished 11-5 and made the playoffs.
But consistency on offense was never there and the defense fell apart over the final half of the season.
"We gotta build our own standard, which I feel like we've done," Kendricks said of the defense's mindset. "We gotta have our own standard and not let the media, not let anyone else dictate what our standard is. Sometimes we feel like we can come out there and not give up 5 yards, but we gotta really own that and not let people score."
Minnesota's defense surrendered 12.6 points per game during five wins to start 2016. That number jumped to 22.2 points per game over the final 11 games.