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Lunchbreak: Barnwell Outlines Vikings Biggest Remaining Game on Schedule

The Vikings have five games left on their regular-season slate in 2021, beginning with Thursday night's home game against the Steelers.

But which one of those games is the most critical for Minnesota?

Bill Barnwell, who covers the NFL for ESPN, recently opined that it's actually the next Vikings home — on Dec. 26 against the Rams — that is of the utmost importance for Minnesota.

Barnwell wrote:

Even if the Vikings do beat the Steelers on Thursday night, they'll essentially need to go 3-1 in their four other remaining games to have a realistic chance of making it to the postseason. With a road game against the Packers at Lambeau [Field] looming alongside a home-and-home with the Bears, they have to either pull off an upset on the road against [Aaron] Rodgers and Green Bay or beat the Rams at home. The latter seems more likely and comes earlier on the schedule.

The Vikings alternate home and away games for the rest of the season, beginning in Week 14 against the Steelers.

Minnesota currently sits at 5-7 and in the No. 9 spot in the NFC playoff picture.

Barnwell recently looked at the seven teams, including Minnesota, who are jockeying for a Wild Card spot over the final month of the season.

Barnwell, who has the Vikings at a 25.4-percent chance to make the playoffs, said the Vikings are in survival mode from here on out.

On a short week, the Vikings now face the Steelers on Thursday night. It's unclear which of the injured starters will be back for that game, although it seems unlikely that the offense will have either [Dalvin] Cook or [Adam] Thielen on the field. Losing and falling to 5-8 would drop the Vikings' playoff chances down to 17 percent, per The Upshot's playoff model and force them to win out. Anything short of a playoff berth could inspire more wholesale changes in Minnesota, with both [Kirk] Cousins and [Mike] Zimmer facing uncertain futures. After losing to the Lions, the Vikings are basically facing a must-win with one hand tied behind their back.

Barnwell's full look at the NFC playoff hopefuls can be found here.

CBS Sports: Vikings offense key to Week 14 win

It's no surprise that much of this week's focus the Vikings has been about the defense, especially with the way Sunday's game ended in Detroit.

But CBS Sports said it's the opposite side of the ball that will need to step up against Pittsburgh.

The website recently listed the key way for the Vikings to get a win, and went with an offense that has shown the potential to be among the league's most-potent units.

View photos of wide receivers Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn showcasing the team's Primetime Purple uniforms.

CBS Sports wrote:

Minnesota has one of the top offenses in the NFL, as the Vikings are ranked seventh and average 384.9 total yards per game. Despite losing to the Detroit Lions in Week 13, Minnesota had 426 total yards of offense. Cousins went 30-of-40 for 340 yards with two passing touchdowns. Running back Alexander Mattison filled in admirably for Cook, who was out with a shoulder injury, and finished with 124 yards from scrimmage.

Wide receiver Justin Jefferson played lights-out and showcased once again why he's among the NFL's top receivers. Jefferson had 11 receptions for 182 yards with a touchdown. Minnesota's offense is filled with dynamic playmakers who can do damage with the football in their hands.

View photos of Vikings players' custom cleats in honor of the NFL's 2021 My Cause My Cleats initiative that allows players to express their commitment to causes that are important to them.

Minnesota's offense ranks 10th in the league with 25.7 points scored per game. Pittsburgh will counter with a defense that ranks 21st at 23.8 points allowed per game.