The Vikings take aim at clinching the NFC North today when they take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals. Coming off a loss last week in Carolina, the Vikings will look to start a new winning streak as they fight for their second division championship in three seasons as well as the top seed in the NFC playoff field.
Here are a few final thoughts before today's matchup.
In ripping off eight consecutive wins prior to losing last week in Carolina, the Vikings were efficient in the red zone. It's no coincidence that the Vikings winning streak ended on the same day they were just one of four (25%) in the red zone and zero of two (0%) in goal-to-go situations. Success in critical areas such as 3rd down, the red zone and two-minute situations has been a point of emphasis for head coach Mike Zimmer since the team opened its offseason program last spring, and you can be sure it was hammered on this week during practice. Expect a sharper performance from the Vikings in the red area today.
The Bengals are banged up
Every team is dealing with injuries this time of year and no one is truly feeling 100%. But the Bengals come into today's matchup especially banged up on defense. They will be without their top three linebackers - Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter and Nick Vigil – as well as their top two cornerbacks – Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpartrick. Not helping matters for Cincinnati is the fact that starting running back Joe Mixon has also been declared out.
The top priority for the Vikings is to win their own games. But there's nothing wrong with hoping for some help. The Vikings will get help no matter what happens in the Green Bay-Carolina game. A Packers win will help keep the Vikings main threat for the No. 2 seed – Carolina – at bay. A Panthers win will knock Green Bay from NFC North consideration. The current No. 1 seed is Philadelphia and the Vikings pursuit of them would be aided with a New York Giants win; those two teams square off at Met Life Stadium at noon CT.