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Lunchbreak: ESPN Says 'Don't Count Vikings Out' as NFC Contender

Currently in the NFC, the Eagles (8-1) are three games ahead of the second-place Cowboys in the NFC East division and would be the No. 1 seed if the playoffs started next week.

Could the Vikings end up being a challenger?

ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote following Minnesota's win at Washington Sunday that the NFC North team shouldn't be counted out.

*It's not crazy to imagine this team as a real contender. The Vikings made the playoffs as division champs two years ago and started 5-0 last season before a brutal run of injury attrition on the offensive line cost them any chance of making good on that. They hit the line hard in free agency, brought back the core of a smothering defense, and their wide receiver duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs makes a case as the very best in the NFL. *

Graziano emphasized the Vikings tough stretch of games coming up – home against the Rams before consecutive road contests at Detroit, Atlanta and Carolina – and said that sequence will provide "some better idea about how good the Vikings are, what their best option is at quarterback and what their chances are of becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium."

Graziano said that the conference standings "label the Vikings a contender, and that means there's a foundation for something cool."

Philadelphia had its bye on Sunday and will look to continue its hot hand in Week 11.

There's no way to know what the rest of the season holds for [Case] Keenum, [Teddy] Bridgewater and the gang, but if you're in first place in the NFC [North] right now and you're thinking, "Why not us?" – who can blame you?

7-Minute drive at Washington set 2017 Vikings apart

After yesterday's defeat at Washington, the Vikings now have five consecutive wins, are 7-2 on the season and sit atop the NFC North.

Minnesota wasn't flawless, and back-to-back interceptions by Keenum in the second half enabled the Redskins to shrink the deficit to 8 points. But the Vikings hung on and finished the game strong. Mark Craig of the *Star Tribune *said the seven-minute stretch following the turnovers set the 2017 Vikings apart from the 2016 squad that struggled after the bye. Craig wrote:

Without this rebuilt offensive line, the Vikings would have lost Sunday's game because there's no way they would have been able to turn the chaos from Keenum's second interception into a crowd-crushing 13-play, 40-yard drive that resulted in Kai Forbath's 53-yard field goal for an 11-point lead with 7:45 left.

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For the game, the Vikings converted eight of 12 third downs. On this particular drive, they converted three straight.

The Vikings played at FedEx Field a year ago and lost by 6 points. Right guard Joe Berger said that a big difference between the two games was that last year, the Vikings failed to convert a pair of third-and-1s in the second half.

"We have a lot of new faces, but we remember how last year went," Berger told Craig. "It was a point of emphasis. If we had third-and-short, we had to stay on the field and get points. And we did that today."

Adam Thielen 'tortures' Washington secondary

Following the conclusion of the Sunday's games, NFL.com posted a roundtable-style article that delved into takeaways from each matchup.

Kevin Patra highlighted the performances of Keenum and Adam Thielen in Minnesota's 38-30 win at Washington. Patra wrote:

Adam Thielen tortured the Redskins secondary, burning them deep and with runs after the catch. The wideout earned receptions of 49, 38, 38 and 17 yards, finishing with eight receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. The shifty receiver runs pristine routes that get him wide open wherever he lines up in the formation. His in-cut on a beautiful touchdown dart from Keenum crossed up Josh Norman. Thielen wasn't the only one to burn Norman. Diggs torched the Pro Bowler on the first drive and ran away from the corner on a big catch-and-jaunt later. With Thielen and Diggs, the top receiver duo in the NFL, consistently getting wide open, Keenum's job becomes easier.

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