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NFL Power Rankings: Minimal Movement for Vikings Entering Week 16

The fourth quarter is typically regarded as the most important for a magnitude of reasons.

It's the opportunity to finish what a team started or end on a strong note. It's also a time where successes are praised, mistakes are crucially examined, and results can define the direction of a team or organization.

The Vikings were strong in fourth quarters in 2022, particularly on the offensive end. Minnesota scored 169 total points in the final frames of 2022 regular-season games (not including overtime), which topped the NFL's ranks. The Vikings also led the league in scoring average (9.6 points per game) in the fourth quarter.

This year, however, it's been a polar opposite. Through 14 games, Minnesota has only produced 65 points in the fourth quarter, which is currently ranked 22nd in the NFL. The Vikings are also 26th in the league in scoring average in the quarter at 4.6 points per contest.

Defensively, Minnesota has allowed its opponents to score 81 points in the fourth quarter this season, which is ranked 14th in the NFL. In 2022, the Vikings only allowed 91 total points from their opponents in the same quarter in the regular season.

The Vikings fell to the Bengals 27-24 in overtime on Saturday. Cincinnati used a 21-point fourth quarter to erase a 17-3 deficit and force the extra period. In overtime, Bengals kicker Evan McPherson connected on a 29-yard game-winning field goal after the Vikings were stopped on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 42-yard line.

The loss marks the third in the past four games for Minnesota (7-7), all of which the Vikings have had a fourth-quarter lead.

Minnesota was able to move up a couple of lists but also fell back in others in this week's Power Rankings. Here's a look at where the Vikings rank heading into Week 16:

No. 18 (down 1 spot): Eric Edholm,

The standings and schedule seem to suggest that the Vikings have a statistically decent chance of making the postseason. But the quarterback regression is undeniable now; even Kevin O'Connell has called it a "week-to-week" operation, and I know exactly what he means. Joshua Dobbs gave the team a jolt, and then he crashed. Nick Mullens started Saturday and looked poised to deliver a huge road win. Instead, he finished with two picks deep in Bengals territory (one to a 311-pound defensive tackle) and should have thrown a pick-six, but the Bengals jumped offsides. That and a strange, late collapse by Minnesota's vastly improved defense did Minnesota in.

No. 14 (up 1 spot): Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

What happened to the defense against the Bengals? Now [the Vikings] face a big game against the Lions, a team we know can score.

No. 19 (down 1 spot): Josh Kendall, The Athletic

In the seven games [wide receiver Justin] Jefferson has played, he's averaging 97.43 receiving yards per game, which ranks behind only Tyreek Hill. However, after Saturday, Minnesota is 2-5 when he's in the lineup. In games Jefferson has missed because of injury, the Vikings are 5-2. Nick Mullens became the fourth quarterback to start a game for Minnesota on Saturday. He threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

No. 19 (no change): NFL Staff, Bleacher Report

Saturday in Cincinnati, the Vikings rolled out their fourth starting quarterback of the season. And while the name on the back of the jersey was different, the result was the same — and after dropping three of four, Minnesota's postseason aspirations are fading.

To be fair, it wasn't Nick Mullens' fault Minnesota lost — while he did throw a pair of interceptions, Mullens passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns, drawing praise from star receiver Justin Jefferson.

"Nick did a fantastic job," Jefferson told reporters. "Especially with just a week of preparation of him being the starting quarterback. I feel like he came out today with confidence."

But the Vikings couldn't hold a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said after the loss that this setback stung.

"Very unfortunate," O'Connell said. "Come on the road and battle a team that's playing well right now. Felt like we let one slip away."

Now the Vikings are left with essentially no margin for error if they want to head back to the postseason. And with two of the team's final three games against the NFC North-leading Lions, Minnesota faces an uphill climb.

No. 19 (down 3 spots): Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

The Vikings got the sharper QB play they wanted from backup Nick Mullens as he helped wake up the downfield passing game. The running game also was elevated by backup Ty Chandler. But the defensive breakdowns against the pass came back to haunt them in Cincinnati and could still keep them out of the playoffs.

No. 17 (up 2 spots): Nate Davis, USA Today Sports

Nick Mullens was oh so close to becoming the fourth Vikings quarterback credited with a win this season.

No. 14 (no change): Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports

It's disheartening to lose when Nick Mullens played well, Ty Chandler went off and the Vikings outplayed the Bengals for three quarters. The good news, though, is Mullens did throw for more than 300 yards and despite some bad mistakes, he looked serviceable. Minnesota is still on track to make the playoffs.