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Can the Minnesota Vikings Reach the Playoffs?

One of the biggest surprises so far this season has been the 5-2 Minnesota Vikings, a team projected to finish near the bottom of the NFL before the season began but that currently sits in second place in the NFC North behind the Chicago Bears. Usually when a team gets on a roll like this, fans, experts and gamblers jump on board; the point spreads start shifting in their favor, SportsCenter leads with a feature about how that team “changed the culture,” and pundits start talking themselves into the team being a real contender. However, this hasn’t happened with the Minnesota Vikings, at least not yet. It feels like everyone is holding their breath and waiting for the Vikes to screw up so they can stop paying attention to them.

But will that actually happen? Will the Vikings slip and fall like so many people are expecting them to? (Last night’s tough loss to the Bucs certainly won’t help their case.) The first half of their schedule was one of the easiest in football, a big reason why they have found early success. That isn’t to take anything away from the Vikings, who have played well and shown that their much-maligned pass defense has significantly improved, jumping to 12th-overall in the league. However, it’s easy to look good when you’re playing the likes of Matt Hasselbeck, John Skelton and Blaine Gabbert. Still, the Vikings have shown that, at the very least, they can’t be underestimated. They’re going to need some of that will power as they head into the last half of their schedule, which contains some truly brutal matchups.

For instance, they still have to play the Bears and Packers twice. Each. That’s right: outside of one game against the Lions, the Vikings still have the meat of their divisional schedule ahead of them, and those four games alone could bring the Vikings back down to earth. But that’s not all: add in a road trips to Seattle, Houston, and St. Louis, and this team could easily finish the season 6-10. But by the admittedly low standards for this Vikings team, even that would be considered a step in the right direction. But if they can steal a few of those big road games (it’s tough to imagine them losing to the Lions again) they just might be a playoff team. However, Christian Ponder must play better if this is to happen. He was dreadful against the Cardinals, throwing two ugly interceptions and tossing for less than 60 yards. Blech.

So how can gamblers bet on the Vikings from here on out? It’s tough to tell because of the low caliber of opponent the Vikes have faced so far this season, but in the one game against a championship-aspiring opponent they have played (against the San Francisco 49ers), the Vikes acquitted themselves well. When the Vikings are the underdog on the road by a significant number of points (more than a touchdown), I think it would be the wise bet to take the points. They’re a scrappy team that can simply hang with other, superior teams. That’s why the Vikings’ clash against the Redskins two weeks ago was so fascinating: they’re very similar teams, with dynamic young offensive talent and a burgeoning defense. They may not be good now, but they’re scrappy and fun to watch. Still, the well informed gambler can make a few sheckles off this talented but underappreciated team right now.

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