'Control what we can control': Vikings focus on Jets with NFC North title on horizon

When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired in January and Kevin O’Connell a month later, the vision and the goals were clear for the Minnesota Vikings.

They wanted to get back to the playoffs, compete for championships and make sure it would be a collective effort at all levels of the organization. Nine months later, the Vikings are on the verge of accomplishing their first goal under new leadership, and something they haven’t done since 2017: The NFC North Division title.

After an ugly 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Vikings responded on a short week with a 33-26 win over the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving. They’re 9-2, and could clinch a division title as soon as Sunday. The path is simple: They need a victory over the New York Jets, and a Detroit Lions’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings’ primary focus is blocking out the long-term, and focusing on a win Sunday.

"Can we fight the urge to look big picture and the scenarios and all those things? If we control what we can control, which is preparing like crazy for another really good football team who is right in the mix of things in the playoff picture in the AFC, and we turn on the tape and we can see why, I think it’s important that we focus on that," Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said Monday. "One of the main goals of this year for our team is winning our division. I do believe that our team can focus on the present, the little things and also understand if we continue to do the things we’re capable of doing and the things we can control, those things will take care of themselves."

Vikings’ players said as much in the locker room on Monday, after a light practice at TCO Performance Center.

"I think if you do have the perspective of the bigger picture and realize that a lot can happen between now and then, so you keep the same mentality. It’s one game at a time, that’s how it has to be, that’s how you win games in this league," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "That’s been goal No. 1 since we got here was the division. I think as long as we keep the mindset of coming into work grinding, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side. It’s about us and our standard."

If they don’t clinch on Sunday, they can with a win over the Jets and a win at Detroit on Dec. 11. They haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2018 season, missing the postseason two straight years and three of the last four, leading to the dismissals of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman.

The Vikings know it won’t be easy. They saw how bad it can look against the Cowboys, and it can serve as a motivator.

"We’ve been humbled, especially recently. We know we’re not invincible, we’ve got to work every day to win in this league. It’s not an easy league to win in, so we’re going to have to do uncommon things to be great," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "People are gunning for us, so we’ve got to wear our big boy pads every day."


O’Connell said Monday Andrew Booth Jr. is likely out until at least January, and possibly the season, after suffering a meniscus injury that required surgery. The second round draft pick has dealt with injuries since before the NFL Draft, and has nine tackles in six games this season, including one start.

Dalvin Tomlinson returned to practice Monday, a promising sign that he could play against the Jets after missing four games with a calf injury. Akayleb Evans and Christian Darrisaw are each progressing through the concussion protocol, and we’ll know more about their availability later in the week.