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NFL Power Rankings: Vikings Move Slightly After Loss to Lions

Throughout the past few years, the NFL has seen an uptick in games that have come down to the wire.

Since the start of the 2021 season, 431 regular-season and postseason games have ended by a margin of eight or fewer points. In 2022, 164 games were one-score contests, more than any other season in league history. This season has offered 131 one-score games through Week 16.

But no NFL team has been involved in more tight games over the past few seasons than the Vikings. Since 2021, 40 of Minnesota's 50 regular-season or postseason games have been decided by one score, eight more than any other team in the league. The Chargers, Raiders and Steelers each have played in 32, followed by the Ravens with 31.

Fourteen of the Vikings 15 games this season have been by a one-score margin, which is tied for the most in a season in NFL history. This year's Minnesota team joins the 2021 club, as well as the 2015 Ravens and the 1994 Giants.

The Vikings latest close battle came in a 30-24 loss on Sunday to the Lions. Detroit (11-4) earned its first division title in 30 years and won the NFC North (formed in 2002) for the first time in franchise history.

Minnesota (7-8) will close out its home schedule this Sunday, hosting Green Bay on Sunday Night Football.

The loss created some movement for the Vikings in this week's Power Rankings. Here's a look at where the Vikings rank heading into Week 17:

No. 18 (no change): Eric Edholm,

The Vikings aren't done, but it's getting late. They deserve a ton of credit for keeping the season alive — and even extending the team's midseason win streak to five games — after Kirk Cousins was lost for the season. Justin Jefferson was sidelined for that entire hot stretch, so it really is a credit to Kevin O'Connell's and Brian Flores' coaching jobs, getting the most out of their respective units to remain in the playoff race. In Sunday's six-point loss to Detroit, Jefferson put on a show, reminding everyone just how rare he is, whether via his incredible diving TD catch or his improbable conversion in the waning minutes on third-and-27. But that show was also a reminder of what could have been had this team kept its core healthy for more of the season. A 2-0 finish against the Packers and Lions can get the Vikings in the postseason, but they must prepare themselves for the possibility that their largely-inspiring campaign might come up just short.

No. 18 (down 4 spots): Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

The defense has had major issues the past few weeks, which is surprising. [The Vikings] still have a playoff shot, but they will need help.

No. 18 (up 1 spot): Josh Kendall, The Athletic

Editor's note: The Athletic listed an MVP for each team, and Kendall listed tight end T.J. Hockenson, who suffered ACL and MCL tears against the Lions. O'Connell announced Hockenson is heading for Injured Reserve after Kendall published his rankings.

It's not Justin Jefferson because Minnesota has a losing record when he plays and a winning one when he doesn't. Instead, it's another pass catcher, Hockenson, who was acquired last season via trade with the Lions. Hockenson has been targeted more than any tight end in the NFL (127) and has more receiving yards (960) than all of them except Travis Kelce.

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

That the Minnesota Vikings have been able to hang around the fringes of the NFC postseason chase despite a litany of injuries is a testament to the team's resilience.

But the injuries (and poor quarterback play) appear to finally be catching up to the team. After Nick Mullens tossed four more interceptions against the Lions in a game in which the Vikings lost tight end T.J. Hockenson (knee), Jordan Addison (ankle) and edge rusher D.J. Wonnum (quad), the Vikings are 7-8 and on the outside looking in.

After the game, wide receiver Justin Jefferson told reporters the team's struggles are a testament to Kirk Cousins' value to the team.

"I think it goes to show the world the type of player Kirk is," Jefferson said. "At the end of the day, this is a tough league. Not everybody is meant for this job. It's tough not having No. 8 out there — the captain that he is, the leader that he is. He's a great player."

"The Vikings aren't dead just yet," [Bleacher Report NFL analyst Gary] Davenport said. "With victories over the Packers at home and Lions on the road, Minnesota could still make the postseason. But the Packers are just as desperate as the Vikings, and the Lions could still be fighting for seeding. Even if these Vikings somehow win those games, the propensity of Mullens and Josh Dobbs to turn the ball over all but guarantees a quick exit from the postseason. Frankly, the Vikings should use these last two games to see if the team has anything with rookie Jaren Hall. That makes more sense long-term than trying to limp into a postseason beatdown."

No. 21 (down 2 spots): Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

The Vikings are doing their best to get good QB play minus Kirk Cousins, but the turnovers remain the issue and now more injuries have hit their receiving corps. The defense can't hold up well that way, putting the Wild Card hopes on the edge.

No. 15 (up 2 spots): Nate Davis, USA Today Sports

All-Pro WR Justin Jefferson's 5,648 career receiving yards are already the most ever for a player in his first four NFL seasons. And if he'd had just 30 extra yards Sunday, the Vikings playoff outlook would be exponentially better.

No. 17 (down 3 spots): Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports

Just when we thought Jameis Winston wouldn't be a big part of this 2023 season, he somehow assumed the identity "Nick Mullens." Mullens is Jameis Lite, with the possibility of a 60-yard highlight or the worst interception you've seen on every pass attempt. Not good for the blood pressure of any Vikings fan or coach.