With the reality having set in that the Vikings need to win their remaining three games to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs, it would seem that the new motto is "the playoffs start now and every game is a must-win."
The playoffs for the Vikings actually started last week when they faced virtual elimination with a loss to Chicago. The team stepped up and locked down the win it needed to keep playing and the hype machine is ramping up.
"If we don't win Sunday, it's done for us," defensive end Brian Robison said. "There isn't any panic in this room, but there is definitely a sense of urgency. We've put ourselves in this position to have to win out, but that's what playoff teams have to do – win or go home."
While there is a scenario in which the Vikings could make the playoffs at 9-7, it would require a lot of negative things to happen in the next three weeks to the teams currently sitting in front of them, but the Vikings aren't looking at the mathematics of that equation. Instead, they're focused on what they can get done.
"You can't worry about what other teams are going to do," Erin Henderson said. "Do we want to see the teams in front us lose? Sure we do. But all we can control is what we do to improve our record and, as it stands right now, we have to win out in order to make the playoffs. That's how we're looking at it."
One of the things that separate the NFL for the other major sports is the time in between games. If a baseball team gets crushed, they can come out the next day and right the wrong. The same is pretty much true for basketball and, when they play, hockey. But in football there is a week in between games to assess what has happened and what is coming. There's a lot of time for talking and for analysis of what a team needs to do in order to be successful. The Vikings are at that point now where the manta of running the table has been engrained in all of them. That won't change between now and game time Sunday. If anything, it will only get more intense if the Vikings come out of the Edward Jones Dome with a win.
"We can't look past St. Louis and think about Houston or Green Bay," defensive lineman Everson Griffen said. "There's no need to. We know what we have to do – we have to win all of them from here on through and that starts with St. Louis. We have a team good enough to run the table and get where we want to be. The playoffs have already started for us and we have to just keep doing what we're doing and the wins will come."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.