Where Do We Stand?

With Sunday's loss, the Vikings are 4-12 in their last 16 games and a team that looks lost more often than it does found. While the rebuilding process is slow, the flashes of great play can't make up for the body of work.

Sunday's loss was another chance for those Vikings fans who see the glass as being half full to point to the fact that the Vikings had a seven-point halftime lead over the then 5-1 Cowboys. But it was also a chance to see how far the Vikings are away from being the type of Super Bowl contender the Cowboys are.

The Vikes were given plenty of chances. They responded nicely to the Cowboys' opening scoring drive with a long, time-consuming drive of their own. But, from that point on, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson completed just four of his last 17 passes and the Vikings offense looked nothing short of bleak.

While the Vikings have still outscored their opponents 115-114, it should be noted that 28 of those points have been the direct result of defensive touchdowns and several more have been the result of turnovers that have given the offense a short field to work with. While the explosiveness of Adrian Peterson is something for fans to hang their hats on for the future, the reality is that, since the Vikings started 4-2 under Brad Childress last year, beginning with a home Monday night game in which the Patriots and Tom Brady ignored the run and said they could beat the Vikings almost exclusively with the short pass, the Vikings have gone 4-12 in the last 16 games.

The hole they have dug themselves is pronounced. With a 1-2 record in the division and a 1-3 road record, the Vikings find themselves three games behind the Packers and two games behind the Lions with a loss in hand to both.

The Vikings are by no means out of playoff contention – the Giants were left for dead at 0-2 with a defense that had allowed 80 points and they've won five straight to remain on the heels of the Cowboys. But the hole has been dug that is going to be difficult to get out of. Eight of the conference's 16 teams currently have winning records and only two – the 1-6 Falcons and 0-7 Rams – have worse records in the conference through this week's games.

While there is reason for optimism, the reality appears to be that the Vikings are going to be one of those teams that spends most of this season trying to chase down a playoff spot as opposed to one who builds up a solid record and coasts toward the postseason hoping to avoid a bump in the road.

It has become just as clear that the Vikings will need to play nearly flawless games to win. They did so against the Falcons and Bears and won both. They didn't against their other four opponents and, although they were close in all of them throughout, they haven't won any of those. While the building process is underway, it looks as though that project still has a lot of work needed.

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