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NFL Power Rankings: Red-Hot Vikings Continue Ascent Up Polls

The Vikings navigated through a three-game NFC North stretch, securing a trio of victories to improve to 4-5 on the season.

Minnesota has worked its way into the NFC playoff race, and can keep its momentum going by holding serve at home over the next three weeks.

Up first? A matchup against the Cowboys.

Here's a look at where the Vikings rank before Week 11:

No. 16 (same spot): Dan Hanzus –

It took 10 tries, but Kirk Cousins finally won a start on Monday Night Football. Perhaps that's why we saw the Vikings quarterback in such an excited state after his fourth-quarter completion to Kyle Rudolph helped seal the 19-13 win over the Bears. These guys don't live their lives in a bubble, and it's one less narrative that Cousins — ever the lightning rod — has to hear about. Mike Zimmer wasn't happy with his special teams converge unit on Monday, but he has to be feeling pretty good about just about everything else. The Vikings have won three straight and find themselves back in the NFC playoff race. Their 1-5 start feels like ancient history now.

View photos of the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" following the 19-13 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.

No. 16 (up 1 spot): Frank Schwab – Yahoo! Sports

The Vikings won't be fun to play for future opponents. They have three legitimate stars on offense in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. And Mike Zimmer's young defense is getting better.

No. 16 (up 3 spots): Pete Prisco – CBS Sports

With three straight victories and a soft three-game stretch coming up, they have turned their season around. They have real playoff chances now.

No. 18 (up 1 spot): NFL Staff – Bleacher Report

Break up the Vikings.

To be fair, the Vikings did not exactly light up Soldier Field in their Monday night victory over the Bears. Dalvin Cook had 96 yards on the ground, but those 96 yards came on 30 carries.

But with Cook bottled up, Kirk Cousins took to the air, exorcising some of the ghosts of his previous 0-9 career record on Monday Night Football in the process. Rookie Justin Jefferson continued to impress, catching eight passes for 135 yards. Veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen was on the receiving end of both of Cousins' scoring throws.

A few weeks ago, the Vikings were 1-5 and given up on by most. It's still going to be an uphill climb to get back to the postseason, but they are now 4-5 heading into a stretch of winnable games against the Cowboys, Panthers and Jaguars.

This is a Minnesota team that could be 7-5 when it travels to Tampa in Week 14.

Not that long ago, that appeared laughable.

View photos of WR Adam Thielen's one-handed touchdown grab during the Vikings-Bears Monday Night Football game at Soldier Field.

No. 17 (same spot): Conor Orr (The MMQB) – Sports Illustrated

The Vikings have been hit with problem after problem, and they're still square in the NFC playoff race.

No. 18 (up 1 spot): Vinnie Iyer – Sporting News

The Vikings can't do much about the results ahead of them in the NFC and the fact they don't get to play in the East to overcome a slow start. They just need to keep grinding and winning, focusing everything they do around Dalvin Cook.

No. 18 (same spot): Nate Davis – USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't pretty, but QB Kirk Cousins broke a nine-game losing streak on Monday Night Football, the longest for any player in MNF history, while also beating Chicago for the first time since he signed with Minnesota.

No. 19 (same spot): Courtney Cronin –

Note: ESPN's pollsters looked at one thing each team would like to take back at this point in the season. Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin went with Minnesota's preseason trade for Yannick Ngakoue.

The Vikings acquired the 25-year-old defensive end from Jacksonville with the thought that they'd eventually be able to pair him with Danielle Hunter. A neck injury Hunter sustained in camp that eventually required season-ending surgery precluded that from happening, and the Vikings cut bait on Ngakoue after six weeks, taking on $6.8 million in dead cap. What if the Vikings would have used their resources to instead acquire an experienced cornerback to help their young secondary? What if Minnesota signed a veteran interior offensive lineman? Would those moves have panned out better long term than paying for less than two months of work from Ngakoue?

No. 16 (up 2 spots): Mike Florio – Pro Football Talk

With the running game not what it's been, the defense and the passing game surprisingly stepped up.