The Vikings have clawed and climbed into the No. 7 NFC Wild Card spot of the playoffs … for now.
Minnesota's overtime win against Jacksonville, coupled with Arizona's loss to the Rams, gave the Vikings (6-6) a bump over the Cardinals (6-6) in the postseason race because of record over common opponents.
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, ESPN's Bill Barnwell took a look at the NFC Wild Card race and each team's chances to be in the dance come Week 17.
Behind the division-leading Packers (9-3), Barnwell used the ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) for the projected percentage of the Lions (1.6 percent), Bears (5.9) and Vikings (19) to reach the playoffs. He wrote the following of Minnesota:
The Vikings have risen up the standings as the Bears have fallen, with Minnesota's 1-5 start giving way to a 5-1 stretch, pushing Kirk Cousins & Co. back up to .500. And while [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's teams have usually succeeded as a product of their defensive play, it has been the offense that has been winning games. [Offensive Coordinator] Gary Kubiak's unit ranks second in the NFL in win probability added per game since the Week  bye, just behind the Chiefs.
Barnwell said the Vikings have been "propelled forward by rookie sensation Justin Jefferson, who is putting together the sort of debut campaign Minnesota hasn't seen since Randy Moss" in 1998.
Since he moved into a starting role in Week 3, Jefferson is second in the league in receiving yards behind Travis Kelce. He leads the NFL over that time frame in yards per target (12.3) and is second behind Davante Adams in yards per route run (3.13). In Sunday's win over the Jaguars, he caught nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, throwing in an 18-yard pass interference penalty for good measure.
Minnesota has the following games remaining: at Tampa Bay, against Chicago, at New Orleans and at Detroit.
Barnwell said that winning three of the four contests would "almost definitely" secure the Vikings a playoff spot.
View game-action images as the Vikings take on the Jaguars during Week 13 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
CBS Sports gives Minnesota B-minus for Jacksonville battle
Easy or not, the Vikings got 'er done.
And while there were plenty of miscues throughout yesterday's matchup, the Vikings put up enough big plays on all three phases to lift them over the Jaguars.
CBS Sports' John Breech gave out his weekly grades, with Jacksonville earning a B and Minnesota receiving a B-minus. Breech wrote:
At multiple points in this game, it looked like the Vikings were going to blow it against the lowly Jaguars, but Minnesota was able to rebound thanks to fantastic second half from Kirk Cousins, who bounced back with two touchdown passes after throwing a pick-six on Minnesota's opening possession of the third quarter. The Vikings also got off to a rough start on defense, but like Cousins, the D bounced back in the second half with a fumble recovery, a safety and an interception in overtime that helped set up Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal, a redeeming kick after a performance that included two missed extra points and a missed field goal.
Breech said that Cook "had his ugly moments," including the fumbled handoff at the goal line, but that the running back "redeemed himself in OT" with 31 rushing yards on eight attempts.
The Vikings best performances arguably came from two rookies: Justin Jefferson (nine catches for 121 yards and a TD) and Cameron Dantzler, who picked off a pass and recovered a fumble. The win wasn't pretty, but ugly wins count the same as pretty ones, and this victory will keep Minnesota in the NFC playoff race.
Vikings OT win further emphasized importance of run game
The Vikings relied on a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook in the second half of Sunday's game – and especially on their final overtime drive en route to Dan Bailey's walk-off field goal.
In NFL.com's "What We Learned" roundup from the weekend's slate of games, Nick Shook said that Minnesota's 27-24 defeat of Jacksonville was "another example of how important the running game is to the Vikings chances of success." Shook wrote:
Minnesota reached halftime trailing 9-6 and had just 44 yards on the ground as a team, with Dalvin Cook accounting for 21 of those and a minuscule 2.6 yards per carry average. The Vikings were 1-for-5 on third down and were just barely over 100 yards of total offense at the break. Then, Minnesota turned back to what worked for Jacksonville's most recent opponent, Cleveland, and aimed for the naturally developing cutback lane to great success. Cook ran the ball 24 times in the third and fourth quarters and overtime, picking up 99 yards and jump-starting Minnesota's offense in what resulted in a furious third-quarter comeback. Kirk Cousins went from just 83 passing yards in the first half to 305 and a 3-1 TD-INT ratio by the time the game ended, while Justin Jefferson added to his Rookie of the Year case and Adam Thielen also found the end zone. If the Vikings don't run the ball effectively, most everything else falls apart for them eventually. They recognized this with their halftime adjustments and managed to pull out a victory.
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