MINNEAPOLIS – For the first time since 2012, the Minnesota Vikings have made the playoffs.
That novelty isn't lost on the 2015 version of the Vikings, but they aren't satisfied.
There were two scenarios in which the Vikings could have known they were playoff bound prior to the Sunday night game. An Atlanta Falcons loss or a Seattle Seahawks win would have allowed Minnesota to punch its postseason ticket, but neither situation played out as hoped.
Instead, the Vikings took matters into their own hands with a dominating 49-17 win over the New York Giants.
"I would have taken it the other way, but it's always better when you do something yourself as opposed to relying on somebody else," Head Coach Mike Zimmer told the media during his postgame press conference. "That's the opportunity we have in front of us. That's the opportunity we had tonight."
Like Zimmer, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be playing in the postseason in just his second season with the Vikings.
Playing what he describes as his best football to date, Bridgewater took some satisfaction in earning his first playoff berth.
"It's only step one, but it's good to know that you earned it," Bridgewater said. "You can't let anyone do your dirty work for you."
While it's been three seasons since the Vikings last made the playoffs, they also have an opportunity to do something they haven't done since 2009 – win the NFC North.
Thanks to a 38-8 Green Bay loss to the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the day, the Vikings and Packers are now tied atop the division.
Next week's showdown at Lambeau Field is the de facto NFC North championship game.
"If you'd have told me in July that we'd have a chance the last game of the year to play for a division title, I'd have been excited about it," Zimmer said. "It's still going to come down to executing and doing things right. We've played well on the road this year, but we haven't beaten Green Bay. So that's something we have to get done."
Bridgewater admitted that their 30-13 loss to Green Bay earlier this season still stings, but he pointed out improvements that could make a difference next Sunday.
"We're playing smarter as an offensive unit, relying on our guys to make plays," Bridgewater said. "I'm like the point guard out there. I just have to pass the ball to those guys and allow them to make plays."
Zimmer, too, thinks his team is peaking at the right time.
"We've played well the last few weeks," Zimmer said. "I think we're playing with confidence right now. I think our guys feel good about the things we're doing. They believe, and half the battle is believing."
The Vikings could end up being the No. 3, 5 or 6 seeds in the postseason depending on several games next week.
No matter what team the Vikings play in two weeks or where that game is played, Zimmer has made his message clear to his team.
"Coach Zimmer said something to us earlier in the week," Bridgewater recalled. "'Once we get in the playoffs, the only team that can beat the Vikings is the Vikings.'"