Green Bay lost. Chicago lost. And the Vikings' next opponent, the Detroit Lions, also lost. None of those facts were lost on the players or head coach Brad Childress on Monday
"I'm more concerned about us moving ahead than someone else losing, but that's a nice feature that happened," Childress said.
At 7-1, the Vikings find themselves chasing the conference title more than worry about defending the division title they won with a 10-6 record last year. Their closest competitors in the NFC North are Green Bay and Chicago, both at 4-4, but New Orleans is still undefeated as the leader in the conference.
And the Saints seem to be the standard by which the Vikings are now compared.
"You see all these teams in our division, but we've got to look outside the box a little bit and look at the rest of the league and compare ourselves to the top teams," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "We're just truckin'. Nothing out of the ordinary."
At this point, the Vikings have to guard against overconfidence. In 2003, they were 6-0 but continued their season by losing the next four games and finishing the year 9-7.
Right tackle Bryant McKinnie remembers that time, but he said it's a different feeling the locker room right now.
"When we were 6-0 (in 2003), we were winning, but people weren't sure how we were winning. When we lost, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, here we go,'" McKinnie said. "But here, it's just a different swagger. Everybody expects to win. It's no, ‘I hope we beat this team.' It's like, ‘We'll beat this team.' Just a little more confidence. Not arrogant, but just having a little more confidence going out there."
Part of that confidence comes from knowing that they can still play better. Several players said the team may have only one win, but they haven't put together a complete game or peaked in the first half of the season.
"We haven't had a game where we hit all phases – as far as offense, defense and special teams. We might have hit one and not the other two, or two but not the other one," receiver Percy Harvin said. "We've still got a lot of room for improvement and hopefully one of these games we can get going."
Shiancoe said the team is gaining confidence. In fact, it appears it already has a lot of confidence – and swagger, which seemed to be the word of the day.
"We're starting to get that swagger now, knowing that we're an elite team right, knowing the talent that we have and the promise that we have," he said. "We all know it. We all feel it. Confidence in each other and knowing that the next man is working as hard as you.
"There's a sense of winning here, man. We know we can do it. We have all the puzzles, so we're just putting all the pieces together."
In addition to the Saints (8-0) and the Vikings, only the Dallas Cowboys (6-2) have fewer than three losses in the NFC. The Saints and Cowboys are the only teams in the conference that are on at least a two-game winning streak. Dallas has won four in a row and the Saints have won all eight of their games this year.
"A lot of people have tried to compare us to New Orleans and feel like we'll play each other in the NFC Championship, but who knows? We've still got the second half of the season and we've got to see how that pans out," McKinnie said.
Shiancoe, however, has taken it upon himself to talk to a couple of Saints players – former Giants teammate Jeremy Shockey and former Vikings teammate and locker-room neighbor Darren Sharper.
"They jawed a little bit and then it leveled off a little bit. I was talking about how we're good and I gave them some praise too," Shiancoe said. "I wouldn't get too far into whose (in a) better rhythm. We do look at teams like that because we know we're amongst them, amongst the top."
"They're out there ballin'. They're playing very, very well down there in New Orleans. They have the right to be confident right now."
The Vikings are also confident, and McKinnie said this feels like a team that can win under any circumstance. That wasn't always the case.
"When I first got here, the offense was real outstanding, but the defense wasn't quite as good. Now I feel it's more of a balance – offensive, defense and special teams. I feel like the team is a little more complete," McKinnie said. "Now people look at it like, ‘We're down and oh, God.' Now everybody is like, ‘We're going to win this game.' It's just a different attitude and mindset when we go out there. We never feel like just because we're down we're out."
As much as Childress tries to focus on the next game, he knows the players all realize the rewards of winning now.
"Among other things that you talk about, you talk about wanting to defend the NFC North and they had a taste of the playoffs last year," he said. "It's no secret that the people with the best record in your conference are able to play at home as long as they can, so it's just important that we continue to play well. Play well this week and things have a way of adding themselves up."
"We had an active day on the ticket front," said Steve LaCroix, vice president of sales and marketing.
Tickets can be purchased at TicketMaster.com.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.