Victory Monday feels just a little bit sweeter when it comes after a Vikings road win against the Packers.
Minnesota now sits at 2-5 on the season and will hit the halfway point of the 2020 season at home Sunday against the Lions.
But the Vikings Week 7 performance was one of their best of the season, with John Breech of CBS Sports giving Minnesota an 'A+ grade' for Sunday's 28-22 win in Border Battle No. 121.
With the Vikings season on the line, Dalvin Cook put the team on his back and carried them to victory. Cook bulldozed through the Packers defense for four straight quarters with 163 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. That's a career day for most backs, but Cook actually added even more production in the passing game with 63 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings "bend but don't break" defense also deserves some credit for coming up with several huge plays, including two fourth-down stops in the second half and a strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers on the Packers final offensive play of the game that prevented a potential Green Bay comeback.
Cook's scrimmage yardage total of 226 yards is the second-most by a Vikings player in team history against the Packers, trailing only the 256 scrimmage yards by running back Darrin Nelson in 1983.
And according to a stat provided by the NFL, Cook became just the fifth player in the Super Bowl era with 200-plus scrimmage yards, at least three rushing touchdowns and a receiving score in a single game.
Cook has been nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week. Vote for him here.
Minnesota's defense also stepped up when it mattered most, holding Green Bay to a single touchdown drive in the second half before rookie D.J. Wonnum called game with his hit on Rodgers on the final play of regulation.
Breech gave the Packers a 'C grade,' noting that Green Bay's hopes for a deep playoff run likely rest on its defense.
If this Packers team has one glaring weakness, it's definitely the defense's ability to stop the run. The defense had no answers for Dalvin Cook and a Vikings rushing attack that gashed them up for 173 yards while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Aaron Rodgers kept the Packers in this game with three touchdown passes, but when your defense can't make a stop, it's almost impossible to win in the NFL, and the Packers found that out the hard way on Sunday.
Green Bay still sits in first place in the NFC North with a 5-2 record. Chicago is 5-3, while Detroit is 3-4.
Graziano: Vikings still have chance at 2020 playoffs
And speaking of standings, ESPN's Dan Graziano took a look at where the Vikings sit in the conference entering Week 9.
Graziano noted that while Minnesota is in last place in the NFC North, the Vikings gained a game in the standings by being the only team in the division to get a win Sunday.
And when pondering the question if the Vikings can still make the playoffs, Graziano said that it is not an overreaction to think Minnesota could be in the mix in the final weeks of the season.
For the first time, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs. That means a 2-5 record is not as discouraging as it used to be. If the season ended today, the NFC Wild Card teams would be the 5-2 Cardinals, the 5-2 Buccaneers and the 5-3 Rams, whose legitimacy we've already called into question here.
Mathematically, the Vikings are not impossibly behind the Rams, and the only team between them that currently has a winning record is the overrated Bears. Chicago, two weeks from now, is the only team the Vikings will play between now and Dec. 13 that currently has a winning record.
I don't know if they can get there. Heck, they just traded big offseason trade acquisition Yannick Ngakoue and might not even technically be "going for it" at this point. But it's important, as the second half of this season unfolds, that you keep in mind the point about the expanded playoffs. And "Whoa, the Vikings aren't out of it yet?" is as good a way as any to keep that in mind.
The Vikings have nine games remaining in the 2020 regular season, with four of them against NFC North foes, including the next two against the Lions and Bears.
All in all, eight of the Vikings final nine games are against NFC opponents, with the lone exception being a Week 13 home game against the Jaguars.
The Voyage delivers unprecedented access to fans, who will be able to step inside the office of Head Coach Mike Zimmer and have an insider's look and listen during his talks with the team. Viewers also will hear directly from current Vikings players who will be writing outcomes of games through their play on the field.