Vikings big question: Do they really have a viable path to the playoffs?

Big Vikings Question:
Do they really have a viable path to the playoffs?
Vikings safety Jay Ward (20) and defensive back Troy Dye (45) celebrated with safety Camryn Bynum (24) after making the game-tying interception late in the fourth quarter before 49ers.
The Vikings’ 0-3 start, which included two one-goal losses at home, left their chances of making a back-to-back playoff appearance precarious before September ended. This means that to secure a playoff berth in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008–09, the Vikings would have to become the seventh team in NFL history to make the playoffs after losing first three matches.
The losses have fueled speculation about who the Vikings might trade before October 1. 31 and whether it would be best for them to lose enough to be able to select a quarterback like USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye at the top of the 2024 draft.
Since then, the Vikings have won three of their four wins, a 22-17 win over the 5-1 49ers, gave them some legitimacy after wins over last-place teams in Carolina and Chicago. And now, believe it or not, the Vikings are in control of their own destiny in the NFC North.
They are two games behind the Lions in the division, after Detroit lost 38-6 to the Ravens on Sunday. The Vikings and Lions won’t meet until December. 24, but if Minnesota surpasses Detroit’s record during the season series, it will win for the second straight season.
The Vikings’ three wins in October also put them back in the NFC wild-card race, where they sit just half a game behind the Buccaneers for the final spot. Between now and their first game against the Lions, the Vikings have just one game against a team that currently has a winning record (at Atlanta on November 5). The only other team they will face with a .500 record will be the Bengals in December. In other words, the schedule gives the Vikings every chance to get back into the playoff race, especially since wild-card opponents like the Seahawks and Cowboys have tougher schedules the rest of the way.
The team has quietly dismissed trade rumors in recent weeks, pointing to a series of split games and an improved defense as reasons why a change is possible. After the win over the 49ers, seeing the Vikings give up on the season is even harder now. If they can win road games against the Packers and Falcons over the next two weeks, they could be above .500 when Justin Jefferson is eligible to return from injured reserve (and the Vikings already anticipate that Jefferson will return to the field as soon as he is able to return).
If the Vikings make another trip to the playoffs, lose in the first round, and enter the postseason with a free-agent quarterback and a pick in the second half of the first round, they will face some important decisions about where to invest. position, whether it’s parting ways with some starters to move to quarterback or considering returning Cousins.
But those questions, especially after Monday night, seem again to be afterthoughts for now. The Vikings have claimed all along they’re still invested in the 2023 season, and with a viable path to the playoffs, that might be the prudent course of action for the rest of this year.
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