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Vikings face a challenging road to the playoffs

Despite a 5-0 start, the Vikings playoff chances are slimming by the day.

As the Vikings head into the final quarter of the NFL season one thing is becoming evident. If they want to make the playoffs they are going to need to start winning again.

Minnesota's defensive showing in a 17-15 loss to Dallas on Thursday won't get the credit that it deserves, but the Vikings' front four gave the Cowboys more trouble than anyone has all season.

After starting the season 5-0, and sitting atop the NFC, six losses in their last seven games has them on the outside looking in with just four games to go.

What lies ahead

There are six playoff spots in the NFC – so far only Dallas has clinched one – so anything can happen, but the Vikings need to start winning.

That could start Sunday as the schedule gets a little easier from here on out.

  • Dec. 11 at Jacksonville (2-10)
  • Dec. 18 vs. Indianapolis (6-6)
  • Dec. 24 at Green Bay (6-6)
  • Jan. 1 vs. Chicago (3-9)

The scary part is, the Vikings could go 4-0 and not make the playoffs, they're going to need some help.

Teams to watch

The easiest way for the Vikings to get into the playoffs would be to win the NFC North. That would guarantee them a home game in the first round.

However, they trail Lions by two games and Detroit has the tiebreaker – meaning basically if the Lions win two more games the rest of the year, they'll win the division – even if the Vikings win out.

Detroit's remaining schedule is tough, though.

  • Dec. 11 vs. Chicago (3-9)
  • Dec. 18 at New York Giants (8-4)
  • Dec. 24 at Dallas (11-1)
  • Jan. 1 vs. Green Bay (6-6)

If the Vikings don't win the division, they'll have to fight for a wildcard spot with the Giants, Atlanta/Tampa Bay, Washington, Green Bay, Arizona and Philadelphia.

Here is how those schedules play out:

Giants – vs. Cowboys, vs. Lions, at Eagles, at Redskins

Falcons – at Rams, vs. 49ers, at Panthers, vs. Saints

Buccaneers – vs. Saints, at Cowboys, at Saints, vs. Panthers

Redskins – at Eagles, vs. Panthers, at Bears, vs. Giants

Packers – vs. Seahawks, at Bears, vs. Vikings, at Lions

Cardinals – at Dolphins, vs. Saints, at Seahawks, at Rams

Eagles – vs. Redskins, at Ravens, vs. Giants, vs. Cowboys

What does it all mean?

Even if the Vikings make the playoffs are they the type of team that can contend for a Super Bowl championship?

Sure it would give them a chance with a postseason appearance, but with the way the offense is struggling it's hard to believe they are legitimate title contenders as the Ringer points out:

"Minnesota's defensive showing in a 17-15 loss to Dallas on Thursday won't get the credit that it deserves, but the Vikings' front four gave the Cowboys more trouble than anyone has all season. That group makes Minnesota at least somewhat scary as a wild-card threat, but not scary enough to overcome the Vikings' sorry offensive line."

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