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The Vikings return to practice today to complete the second half of their 20-game season. With what many believe to be the worst of the schedule behind, the playoff push begins this week.

When the 2006 schedule was released last spring, there was plenty of reason for concern among Vikings fans about the way the slate laid out for the team. Five of their first seven games were against playoff teams and there were some who felt that even a 3-4 record out of the gate would be acceptable for the Vikings to still make a playoff run.

As the Vikings return from their bye week to practice today, they have already assured that scenario and have plenty to look forward to heading past October into November.

There are still no guarantees about beating down the Seahawks or Patriots (the Vikings' next two opponents), but once they get past those games, the schedule gets considerably easier. Of their final nine games, only two opponents (the Bears and the Rams) have a winning record. With teams like 49ers, Packers (twice), Lions, Cardinals, Dolphins and Jets on the docket, there are teams with plenty of losses coming up on the schedule that weren't there for the first two months of the season.

If yesterday's games proved anything, it was that any team can win on any given day -- just ask the Redskins, Bengals and Bills, which all let winless teams get off the hook. Nothing is ever guaranteed in the NFL, but one thing is certain -- the worst of the Vikings' schedule will end in the next two weeks. If the Vikings can be 4-3 or (dare we say) 5-2 heading into November, the playoffs will be clearly in sight and the bandwagon will start taking on passengers.

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