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Lunchbreak: ESPN's Confidence in Vikings Drops After 49ers Loss

Another week, another one-score game for the Vikings.

Minnesota couldn't pull this one out though, as it lost 34-26 to San Francisco on Sunday in Week 12 to drop to 5-6 on the season.

The Vikings have now been involved in a one-score game in 10 of their 11 contests so far in 2021. They are 4-6 in such games, with each week being a thrill ride down to the closing seconds.

And much like Minnesota's up-and-down season, Courtney Cronin's confidence level in the Vikings has also ridden the roller-coaster ride.

The ESPN Vikings reporter has the Vikings at a 6 this week (out of 10), which is down a point from where it was after Week 11.

Cronin wrote that her main level of concern is how Minnesota will fare if Dalvin Cook, who left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, is out for an extended amount of time.

Minnesota faces the winless Lions on the road in Week 13, a team it took a last-second field goal from Greg Joseph to beat earlier this season. That's not as concerning as the prospect of the Vikings having to fare without Cook as they try to stay in the playoff hunt over their final six games.

Cronin also noted that Cook's potential absence is now another in a long line of them for Minnesota.

She wrote:

Minnesota's postseason chances are fading after losing at San Francisco. ESPN's FPI gives the Vikings a 40-percent chance to make the playoffs, and although their remaining schedule is less than formidable (they face the Bears twice and the Lions on the road, and they have the Steelers – who got demolished Sunday – at home), they might be without Cook, who sustained a shoulder injury late in the third quarter and had to be carted off. The injury looked serious, and it's not the only loss the Vikings will have to overcome. Minnesota's defensive line is missing Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Michael Pierce. Rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw also got injured against San Francisco and had to be replaced by Rashod Hill.

Besides Cronin's recap, John Breech of CBS Sports also handed out his weekly grades around the league.

He gave Minnesota a ‘B- grade’ for a decent yet inconsistent performance against San Francisco.

Breech wrote:

This was a game where the Vikings struggled in key situations on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they went just 2 of 8 on third down. Also, they had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie, but both possessions ended with an errant throw from Kirk Cousins on fourth down. With the 49ers focused on stopping Minnesota's rushing attack, this game was put on the shoulders of Cousins, and he just couldn't come through with a clutch play when the Vikings needed it.

Defensively, Minnesota couldn't get off the field while going up against a 49ers offense that steamrolled its way to 208 yards on the ground. The Vikings are now 0-7 all time under [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer when surrendering at least 200 rushing yards. The Vikings did make some huge plays in this game, like a 99-yard kickoff return TD from rookie Kene Nwangwu, but they just made way too many mistakes to beat a good team like San Francisco.

The 5-6 Vikings currently sit in the No. 7 spot in the NFC playoff picture. Minnesota would fall to the eighth seed (and out of the postseason field) if Washington wins on Monday Night Football.

Jones: Vikings still have low panic level after loss

Each week, The Athletic unveils its "weekly panic index," which is a collection of where teams stand around the league … and how worried they should be.

Lindsay Jones included the Vikings on this week’s list, and noted that Minnesota shouldn't be sounding the alarm after Sunday's loss.

Jones, who said the panic level is "low" for the Vikings, did add that the team will need to get back on course soon, or else.

View game action photos between the Vikings and 49ers during the Week 12 matchup at Levi's Stadium.

She wrote:

How many more one-score losses can one team endure? The Vikings eight-point loss to the 49ers was their largest margin of defeat all season, and it makes you wonder if the Vikings are unlucky, bad in critical situations or a little bit of both. They're still in the playoff mix, and in the No. 7 seed after Week 12, so things certainly aren't dire in Minnesota. But now it's time for the Vikings to stop playing it so close. With games against the Lions, Steelers and Bears in the next three weeks, this is when Minnesota needs to prove it belongs with the contenders. If it loses to any of them, time to move the panic needle.

The Vikings were one of four teams included with a "low" panic level along with the Cowboys, Colts and Chargers.

The "medium" tier included the Steelers, Rams, Titans, Eagles and Browns, while the Saints and Bears were deemed to have a "high" panic level. The Panthers and Jets were above that in the "critical" tier.