The Minnesota Vikings are now 6-1 after a thrilling win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. With losses by the rest of the division, Minnesota holds a dominating 3.5-game lead, including the head to head tiebreaker, over second place rivals Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears (those two are tied for second at 3-5).
You’ve all heard of a magic number before when it comes to clinching divisions and playoff spots in sports. The Vikings now have one of their own. Their magic number is the Lucky Seven.
How do the Vikings hit the magic number? It’s pretty simple. They need a combination of seven wins, Packers losses, and Bears losses. Once they get that seven, they win the NFC North.
Things seem to be trending up for Minnesota right now. We don’t know how good yet these Vikings can be, but they are trending upwards. The Packers and Bears, meanwhile, are currently trending downwards with little glimmers of trending upwards. Today, we are going to take a look at the Vikings, as well as their divisional rivals, and look at when this team could potentially clinch their division.
Vikings: After a bumpy November, December and January get easier
After a Week 9 showdown at the Washington Commanders that will simultaneously serve as Kirk Cousins’ homecoming, the Vikings are going to endure a brutal rest of the month. Week 10 brings on the daunting task of going on the road and facing an AFC juggernaut in the Buffalo Bills. Things won’t get easier over the rest of the month, either, as the Vikings go home for the next two weeks but are hosting two pretty good teams in the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. The Patriots game is notable because it is being played on Thanksgiving Night, and we know how quarterback Kirk Cousins does under the bright lights of primetime.
In the three weeks after the Patriots game, it will get easier for Minnesota. They will stay home for two out of three weeks, hosting the Jets in Week 13 and the Colts in Week 15. While they seem to play hard for coach Robert Saleh and are good defensively, the Jets offense is being held back by second-year quarterback Zach Wilson and the offense as a whole doesn’t seem the same without now-injured rookie star running back Breece Hall. The Colts, meanwhile, rank at the bottom of the league in terms of total offense and have recently benched veteran starter Matt Ryan in favor of second year man Sam Ehlinger. The Colts offense couldn’t do much against the Commanders defense this past week with Ehlinger under center, so they shouldn’t scare the Vikings by any means.
The other December game the Vikings are playing before Week 15 is Week 14 at the divisional rival Detroit Lions. The Lions seemed to be off to a nice start to the year when these two teams met, but have since faltered. After a scorching first four weeks of offensive performance to start the year, the Lions scored a total of six points against elite defenses in the Patriots and Cowboys before seeing a resurgence this past week against Miami. Speaking of defenses, the Lions defense is statistically the worst in the league, and it showed in home games against the Seahawks and Dolphins. The Lions scored enough points in those two games to win, but their defense allowed the Seahawks and Dolphins offenses to drive up and down the field on them and that’s ultimately why they lost those games.
Prediction: Out of these seven upcoming games, I believe that the Vikings will win four or five of them. I believe it will be a rough go for the team in November, with losses to the Bills and one of either the Cowboys or Patriots. I think the team rebounds and wins all three December games that I just talked about. If they win the games they should, and if the Packers and Bears continue to lose, it’s possible that Minnesota could have the division clinched earlier than anticipated.
Speaking of the Packers…
Packers – It’s Possible They Waited Too Late To Find Their Offensive Identity.
The Packers may have lost to the Bills on Sunday night but they showed some signs of improvement in the second half. What should’ve been a likely 20+-point loss ended up becoming a 10-point loss because the Packers decided to stay committed to their running game in the second half. The second half of the year was a sign that this team could be on the rebound, but it’s also possible that they waited too long to find their offensive identity.
Like the Vikings, it’s going to be hard for the Packers to win in November. They get an easier matchup in week 9 with a game at the Lions, but then will face the Cowboys, Titans, and Eagles in consecutive weeks, with the Eagles game being on the road. If they stay committed to the run, I believe that the Packers have a chance to have a strong month and win the next four, with the exception of the Eagles game. I believe Philadelphia will steamroll the Packers during that Sunday Night game.
Prior to a Week 15 home date on Monday Night Football with the Los Angeles Rams, the Packers go to Soldier Field and take on the Bears in week 13 before a Week 14 bye. I believe that game will be a loss for the Packers, because of this stat: every Bears coach since Mike Ditka has beaten the Packers at least once in their first year. They can suck against the Packers in their career, but they beat them once during their first year on the job.
Prediction: With their brutal upcoming schedule, I believe that the Packers may have waited too long to find their offensive identity. I believe the only games that can be penciled in as wins for them are the games at Detroit and Monday Night against the Rams. Outside of that, I believe that the only games the Packers will win is one of either the Cowboys or Titans at home. Their identity on offense is a good one but they can easily get beaten at their own game by opponents like the Cowboys, Titans, Eagles, and Bears. It’s an unfortunate bad break for a Packers team that would not only need to go on an improbable run to catch the Vikings in the NFC North standings, but will also likely find themselves battling for the sixth seed at best by the end of the year. I believe that the NFC East will have three playoff teams in the Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants, leaving only one spot open for a team like the Packers, Rams, or Buccaneers.
Bears – Roquan Smith Trade Is Just A Bigger Sign Of A Rebuild, But Fields’ Progression Is Nice To See
Da bad news: Da Bears are in a rebuilding year and that couldn’t have been made more obvious on Monday, when they traded star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens for draft compensation and linebacker A.J. Klein.
Da Good News? Matt Eberflus and the rest of the coaching staff seem to be giving Justin Fields more control of their offense. Fields’ pass attempts in the month of October went up, averaging 23 attempts per game. While still committed to the run game, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has given Fields a bigger role in the offensive attack, which is a great sight to see for a young quarterback.
The Bears are probably not a playoff threat right now, but they are still in second place and a factor in the Vikings’ playoff chance. This year is honestly about progression more than anything else for the Bears. Playoffs? Maybe in a year or two, but they are not a serious threat this year by any means. But maybe they will play spoiler for a few teams’ playoff hopes this season.
Prediction: The Bears, like the Packers, have a Week 14 bye. I believe the Bears will likely win two games before the bye, which are two divisional home games against the Lions and Packers. They will likely have enough losses to decrease the Vikings’ magic number a little bit.
So, When Do The Vikings Hit The Magical Lucky Seven?
I believe that the Vikings will likely clinch the NFC North in Week 14 or 15. By the time Week 13 is finished, I believe that the magic number will be down to one. I have the Vikings winning three games before Week 13, improving to 9-3 on the year, and the Packers losing three to go down to 6-8. That is six games down, and one to go.
The Vikings’ Week 14 game against the Lions could serve as the game where the team clinches the division, but the Vikings may overlook the Lions and lose that game. This would set up this scenario: if the Vikings beat the Colts or the Packers lose to the Rams, the Vikings take the division. I believe the Vikings will beat the Colts at home in week 15, and will win the division that week if they haven’t already clinched the division by then.
So in short, Viking fans will likely be looking at clinching the division in early December. It could be as soon as Week 12 on Thanksgiving Night if the Vikings win out and the Bears and Packers lose out over the next three weeks, but that is very unlikely. Weeks 13-15 is a more realistic window.
That is all for today. Thank you for reading this blog. We have a lot to look forward to as we move into November football! The NFC North could become a very interesting division over the next few weeks depending on how things shake out!