The Minnesota Vikings faced a lot of questions heading into the 2012 season, from the health of running back Adrian Peterson’s surgically repaired left knee, to the ability of quarterback Christian Ponder to take a step forward in his second season and head coach Leslie Frazier’s future if the team didn’t show reasonable improvement on their 3-13 record from 2011.
Certainly even the most optimistic outside observer would not have predicted where the Vikings sit heading into Week 17. They ran their winning streak to three games in a row and pushed their record to 9-6 with a surprisingly easy 23-6 win over the Houston Texans on the road in Week 16. The results later in the day last Sunday created the simplest of scenarios for Minnesota-beat the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 and they will earn a playoff berth.
The Vikings can still earn a playoff spot with a loss to the Packers at home next Sunday, but they would need some help. The Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants would all have to lose in that scenario, and only the Cowboys play a team that is also a playoff contender in the NFC when they take on the Washington Redskins next Sunday night. The Bears and Giants take on the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles respectively in Week 17, so needing two upsets to happen is clearly not ideal for the Vikings.
No matter how the results come out next Sunday, 2012 has been a successful season for the Vikings. They have already tied the franchise record for year-to-year win total improvement by having six more wins than last season, and they can obviously set a new franchise record by beating Green Bay next week and getting their 10th win of the season.
Having any sort of playoff hopes heading into the regular season finale, let alone being in control of their own destiny, is something virtually nobody could have foreseen heading into Week 1.