In addition to the glorious perk of defeating Bill Belichick for the first time in 22 years, the Minnesota Vikings have a new claim to fame — a revised “magic number.”
The Vikings toppled the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving night, 33-26, thanks to heroics from Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Kene Nwangwu, and others. Meanwhile, the NFC North’s second-place occupant, the Detroit Lions, lost to the Buffalo Bills 28-25 earlier in the day.
And because those two items occurred on Thursday, Minnesota’s magic number shrunk to two.
What does that mean? Simple. The Vikings only have to win two games, ask the Detroit Lions two lose two games, or a combination thereof. For example, if the Vikings beat the New York Jets next weekend, while the Lions lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Vikings wrap up the NFC North by December 4th — a mind-bending scenario as Minnesota was forecasted to win eight or nine games by sportsbooks when the season kicked off.
The Vikings haven’t won the NFC North since 2017, thanks to an upstart Chicago Bears campaign in 2018 and prolonged dominance by the Green Bay Packers from 2019 to 2021. But the tide is turning. Minnesota is virtually assured of winning the division, barring a collapse so devious that even cynical Vikings fans wouldn’t believe it.
Essentially, for the Vikings not to win the NFC North, they’d have to finish 0-6, with the Lions rattling off six wins to close out 2022.
Not gonna happen.
Moreover, the magic-number shrinkage arrives as the Vikings still haven’t clicked on all cylinders. During some games, the offense falls asleep in the 2nd and 3rd Quarters. In others, the defense generates no pass rush. Twice, the Vikings played imbecilic, once versus the Eagles and the other time against the Cowboys. Indeed, fans are in the process of determining if “this is who the Vikings are” or if they’re jelling on the fly to create a formidable postseason bunch. We shall see.
One thing is certain — the path to at least one home playoff game is mere weeks away, if not achievable next weekend. The Vikings have hosted just one playoff contest at U.S. Bank Stadium — and you might remember that Diggsian experience five years ago.
Finally, as the magic number counts down to salivatingly low figures, Minnesota may now turn attention to extended homefield advantage, perhaps catching the Eagles for the No.1 seed or simply asserting a stranglehold on the second spot. Should the Vikings maintain their current two-seed status, the probability of hosting two home postseason showdowns skyrockets — so long as the franchise doesn’t wet the bed in the Wildcard Round.
But get your pencils and calendars out. All the Vikings need is two wins or two Lions losses.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).