EAGAN, Minn. — The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Vikings anytime soon.
Minnesota is now 6-4-1 after outlasting the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium during Week 12. If the season ended this week, Minnesota would earn the first NFC Wild Card spot for a playoff berth.
Minnesota is on the road the next two weeks in a row with the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks on the docket.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has plenty of experience taking on Tom Brady and the Patriots after spending his first four seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets.
“You never know what trick plays they are going to run, and knowing them they always got a loophole in the rule book or something,” Richardson said. “They have different schemes that you have never seen before. They find ways to put points on the board to make sure that Tom Brady can win the game for them.”
In Richardson’s four career road games against the Patriots, he has 22 combined tackles, three quarterback hits and one forced fumble.
“I enjoy playing there, honestly,” Richardson said. “It’s a hostile situation, but I’m comfortable there. It’s been a war every time I’ve played there, but it’s always time for a change.
New England is coming off of a 27-13 win over the Jets and has won seven of their past eight games. The Patriots are in first place in the AFC East.
Experts from across the internet updated their power rankings lists, heading into the Vikings tough road matchup.
See where experts ranked the Vikings this week:
Last Week’s Rank: 10 – Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
At 6-4-1, the Vikings are in excellent position to grab a Wild Card spot in the NFC. This is not to suggest that the NFC North is out of the question. Yet, with three of their next four games on the road — including at New England in Week 13 and at Seattle in Week 14 — overcoming the 8-3 Bears will be a lonnnnng walk. Worth noting here is that Minnesota hosts Chicago in Week 17, which could prove crucial, should Matt Nagy's outfit stumble down the stretch. As far as Sunday night's win is concerned, guessing the Packers will think twice — or 20 times — about blitzing Kirk Cousins (29-of-38, 342 yards, three touchdowns, 129.5 passer rating) too much again.
Last Week’s Rank: 9 – ESPN.com
Toughest game left: Week 14 at Seattle. The Seahawks are experiencing a timely surge in the NFC playoff picture and will be chasing the Vikings for one of two Wild Card spots. Russell Wilson is performing at an elite level and is always a nightmare to contain. Good thing Minnesota has had so much success rushing four linemen because Wilson has been lights out against defenses that send in an extra defender with a 13-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio against the blitz this season. On top of the personnel they'll need to scheme for, the Vikings will travel from one corner of the country to the other in back-to-back weeks after facing the Patriots on the road in Week 13. -- Courtney Cronin
Kirk Cousins has the highest completion percentage of his career, and, by three-tenths of a point, his highest passer rating. He’s on pace to blow by his career high in touchdowns. And — this will surprise a lot of folks — he has the lowest interception percentage of his career. He was on fire on Sunday night against the Packers. Cousins didn’t play well in a huge game against the Chicago Bears two weeks ago, but otherwise he’s been what the Vikings paid for. It’s hard to blame him for the Vikings having four losses already, though a lot of people will anyway.
Last Week’s Rank: 9 - Bleacher Report Staff
After getting whacked by the Chicago Bears in Week 11, the Minnesota Vikings were at a crossroads ahead of Sunday night's matchup with the rival Packers. The winner would remain on pace to secure a wild-card berth. The loser would face a steep climb to get back into contention.
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings answered the call. Cousins had an excellent game, throwing for 342 yards and three scores while outplaying Aaron Rodgers. As has been the case all season, Adam Thielen had a big night, reeling in eight passes for 125 yards and a score.
Minnesota's biggest issue offensively, the ground game, managed just 91 yards on 29 carries. Cousins was able to overcome that deficiency in Week 12, but the Vikings need to continue attempting to find more balance.
Things don't get any easier from here, as the next two weeks feature brutal road trips to Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots and CenturyLink Field to take on the Seahawks.
The Vikings finished on Sunday night what they couldn't do in the division the previous Sunday night. Repeating in the North looks like a long shot, and the Wild Card is still a battle with trips to New England and Seattle straight ahead.
My favorite play of weekend was G Mike Remmers taking phrase "human turnstile" to an entirely unfamiliar level. Uh, sorry, Kirk??!!
Last Week’s Rank: T-7 – Sports Illustrated, MMQB Staff
The Vikings won practically a must-win game against the Packers. Now all they have to do is go to New England and Seattle in back-to-back weeks. But if they can win just one of those games, they’ll be set up to claim an NFC Wild Card spot. Their fans aren’t giving up on the division, but that would be a pretty good outcome at this point in the season.
Last Week’s Rank: 10 – Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
With tough road tests coming against New England and Seattle, the Vikings may have to win their last three games (Dolphins, at Lions, Bears) to nail down a playoff berth.
Last Week’s Rank: 11 – Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
The defense is starting to look like the unit we expected to see. The injury to Xavier Rhodes hurts.
Last Week’s Rank: 13 – Mark Maske, Washington Post
Kirk Cousins was very good Sunday night against the Packers, outshining Aaron Rodgers as the Vikings moved into the NFC Wild Card lead. That doesn’t justify the Vikings’ signing of Cousins to a mega-deal in the offseason. Not yet, at least, but it’s a start, and the Vikings’ season has possibilities again. Now comes a road game Sunday at New England, and Cousins must continue to play at a standout level.