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NFL Power Rankings: Vikings Drop Into 20s Before Season Finale

The Vikings are 7-9 with one game to go.

Minnesota closes out its 2021 season at home Sunday against Chicago (6-10). Kickoff is at noon (CT).

Here's a look at where the Vikings rank heading into Week 18:

No. 21 (down 3 spots): Dan Hanzus – NFL.com

This Vikings season was fun … until it wasn't. The playoff-eligible portion of the schedule ended with a blowout loss to — who else? — the Packers, who had no problem clinching the NFC's No. 1 seed in a game Kirk Cousins watched from home after landing on the COVID-19 list at the most inopportune time. Cousins' four seasons in Minnesota have been defined by very good individual production … and very average team results. Cousins is under contract for one more season, making him an intriguing trade chip if the Vikings decide to explore that road (and a team is willing to take on his hefty cap number).

No. 21 (same spot): Frank Schwab – Yahoo! Sports

Mike Zimmer needlessly hanging rookie quarterback Kellen Mond out to dry, saying he doesn't want to get a look at him next week because "I see him everyday" isn't why Zimmer will or won't be retained as coach. But it seemed like a moment of extreme frustration, and to many Vikings fans the feeling is mutual.

No. 21 (same spot): Pete Prisco – CBS Sports

Could this be the end of Mike Zimmer's tenure in Minnesota? Missing the playoffs for a second straight season is not a good look.

No. 21 (same spot): NFL Staff – Bleacher Report

The Minnesota Vikings are officially done.

To be fair, these Vikings have been done for a while now. Sure, Minnesota hung around the fringes of postseason contention much of the season. But the Vikings made losing close games an art form this season. In games the defense played well, the offense sputtered. When the offense was firing, the defense couldn't get stops.

Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson admitted as much while talking to reporters postgame.

"Offense can be on one game and the defense's not playing well, defense can play well one game and the offense is not playing well," Peterson said. "We can't have that back and forth throughout the season. We have to be able to play complementary football. We did that at times and we didn't do that at times. When we didn't do it, it hurt us."

Of course, there are also games like Sunday night — when neither side played well.

No. 22 (down 2 spots): Conor Orr – Sports Illustrated

Mike Zimmer's consistent frustration is on full display. They are not close to the Green Bay Packers right now and must decide what they need to do to close that gap in the near future. Kirk Cousins operates well enough in their system, but if a high percentage QB, two elite wide receivers and a top five running back are not good enough to get you somewhere, what has to change.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.

No. 21 (same spot): Vinnie Iyer – Sporting News

The Vikings never had the defense to be a playoff team and were fortunate to be in so many close games because of their offense. The bottom line is they need much improvement there, with or without Mike Zimmer.

No. 18 (down 4 spots): Nate Davis – USA TODAY Sports

Maybe they'd still be viable if they'd adjusted the game plan and fed their most effective weapon, C Garrett Bradbury, Sunday night.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

No. 22 (same spot): Courtney Cronin – ESPN.com

Note: ESPN looked at a New Year's resolution for team. ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin went with "a clean start" for the Vikings.

The Vikings have not been above .500 in more than 700 days. They tried to do a soft rebuild approach, and it didn't work. They tried to retool their defense to bring back the glory days of the 2017 season and couldn't. Mike Zimmer brought this team to the playoffs three times in eight seasons, General Manager Rick Spielman brought in draft picks like Brian O'Neill and Justin Jefferson and quarterback Kirk Cousins had one of the best years of his career in 2021. But it's time to start over and move this franchise in a different direction with fresh ideas, new leadership and changes across the board in 2022.

No. 21 (down 3 spots): Mike Florio – Pro Football Talk

We'll find out soon whether almost good enough is good enough for ownership.

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