The Vikings will at least be able to have a decent taste of victory as they head out for a week. When they return, they will be trying to build some momentum in the second half of the season.
As the Vikings disperse around the country this week to take some time away from the game on their bye week, they have something to build upon. In a practice employed by Denny Green and Brad Childress before him, head coach Leslie Frazier has got the players to buy into the quadrant system of breaking the season down into quarters. In the first quarter of the season, the Vikings went 0-4. In the second quarter, the team improved to 2-2 – still not great, but a sign of improvement.
As it currently stands, the Vikings are all but dead in the water in terms of playoff consideration, But there are still a lot of games to be played and, when the players return from their week off, they will have an eight-game stretch that will go a long way to determining the future of the franchise.
There is something to be said about building momentum to close out a season. Look no further than Detroit to illustrate that point. In 2010, the Lions looked like the team fans have become painfully accustomed to – they were 2-10 after 12 games and appeared destined to make another high draft pick in April. But a funny thing happened on the way to getting a lottery pick.
Detroit rattled off four straight wins to close out the 2010 season and, in the process, while they finished tied with the Vikings at 6-10, the Lions were placed third in the division while the Vikings finished fourth. It was a little victory, but one that energized Detroit to build on that momentum. At 6-2 at the midway point of the season, there is little doubting that the steam they built late last season has carried over.
The Vikings role in the 2011 playoffs is going to be merely as a spoiler, one that can cripple other teams' playoff aspirations. However, in the long-term, the positivity the Vikings can potentially build in the second half of the season has the potential to have a carryover effect. If the players can be energized by a strong finish, the Vikings can accomplish a lot during the offseason program and minicamps that were denied them this year due to the lockout.
The Vikings are getting a week off to clear their heads and cleanse the systems of what has been a disastrous first half of the 2011 season. When they get back, the focus will be on the present. In reality, for the fans the focus will be on building toward 2012, not simply playing out the string in 2011.
If the playoffs were to begin today, the Packers and 49ers would earn first-round byes in the NFC, the Giants and Saints would be the other division champs and the Lions and Bears would be the wild cards.
After seeing the beating the Lions put on the Broncos Sunday, it would seem clear the Vikings are much happier they have Christian Ponder than having Tim Tebow, who was a first-round pick in 2010. He has a loyal personal fan base, but you get the impression he doesn't have many fans in his own locker room after looking pathetic for a full 60 minutes Sunday, as opposed to looking hideous for 57 minutes the previous week against Miami.
The Matthew Luck Sweepstakes is starting to take better shape. With the Rams getting an improbable win over the Saints Sunday, they bounce back a ways. The Colts remain in the "driver's seat" at 0-8. Miami is still riding the donut in the win column at 0-7. The Rams and Cardinals are both still very much in the running at 1-6, followed by the Panthers, Vikings and Jaguars at 2-6.
Whether it means anything or not, the six losses for the Vikings have all come against teams that are currently at .500 or better. Their two wins have come against teams with a combined record of 3-12.
Call him the luckiest man in the world, if not the most interesting. Last week, the Oakland Raiders had to sign a kicker when Sebastian Janikowski was sidelined. Late in the week, they signed journeyman Dave Rayner. He came in as a one-week signee and kicked off deep enough to get a touchback on the opening kickoff of last Sunday's game vs. Kansas City. The Chiefs would go on to win 28-0 and Rayner never came back on the field. On Wednesday, he was paid $40,000 for a job that didn't take a second off the game clock. Good money if you can get it.
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.