Vikings: With 5-1 record at bye week, where does the season go?

Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings passes against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  ((Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings are back from their bye week, should be well-rested and ready for an 11-game stretch as they aim to knock the Green Bay Packers off the NFC North pedestal.

The Vikings are 5-1, and have a 2.5 game lead over the Packers after their 23-21 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday. We’ll hear from coach Kevin O’Connell and players on Wednesday as they start practice to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals.

As they return, there’s a consensus that the Vikings have dodged bullets ever since losing at Philadelphia Week 2. They’ve won four straight games, all by one score that came down to plays late in the fourth quarter. So where does the season go from here? We provide a quick look at the next 11 games before what we hope is a playoff run. Four of the current 11 opponents have a record above .500.


The Arizona Cardinals are 3-4 and coming off a 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints, with the help of two defensive touchdowns. The Vikings were a made Greg Joseph field goal away from beating the Cardinals in Arizona last season. As long as Kyler Murray as quarterbacking the Cardinals, they’re a threat to the Vikings’ defense.


The Commanders improved to 3-4 after a stunning come-from-behind win over the Packers on Sunday. Taylor Heinicke took over in place of the benched Carson Wentz. It’s a road game and they’re never easy. But if the Vikings are serious about a special season, this one should be a win and a comfortable one at that.


The Buffalo Bills are currently the best team in the AFC at 5-1, thanks to the duo of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. They’re 2-0 at home and have won three straight. It’s one of the few games on the schedule that looks like a sure loss, but anything is possible in the NFL and both teams could look different in three weeks, depending on injuries.


In Dak Prescott’s return from injury, the Cowboys got off to a slow start offensively Sunday before pulling away for a 24-6 win over the Lions. The Cowboys are 5-2, and 2-1 on the road this season. It won’t be easy, as evidenced by losing to Cooper Rush last year. It’s on the Vikings to defend their home turf.


While most of us are stuffing are faces with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and fighting to stay awake on the couch, the Vikings host the Patriots on Thanksgiving night at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Patriots are 3-3, and it’s another home game the Vikings have to win if they’re serious about this season.


In an interesting schedule quirk, the Vikings host the New York Jets to start December in the last of three straight home games. The Jets are one of the biggest surprises in the AFC at 5-2, which includes a 27-10 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field eight days ago. The Jets are currently on a four-game win streak, but a lot can change in a month.


In another scheduling quirk, the Vikings’ first road division game of the season comes Dec. 11 at Ford Field against the Lions. Detroit is 1-5 under Dan Campbell this season, and should’ve beaten the Vikings in Week 3. Instead of going for a fourth down to end the game, his kicker missed a field goal and Kirk Cousins hit KJ Osborn for a game-winning touchdown. The Lions have lost four straight, but the Vikings can’t take this game lightly.


The Vikings host the Colts in mid-December, a 3-3-1 squad that just benched Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger. With a three-game stretch against the Giants, Packers and Bears to end the season, the Vikings can’t afford to take this game lightly.


The Giants might be the surprise of the NFC East, and might have the division lead if not for the Philadelphia Eagles. Brian Daboll has the Giants at 6-1, and winners of four straight. The Vikings might be in a position to lock up a playoff spot with this game, so keeping Saquon Barkley at bay is a priority. The Vikings need a strong effort to close out their regular season home finale.


The Vikings head to Lambeau Field on New Year’s Day, and with the way the Packers are going, the NFC North might already be decided by the first day of 2023. The Packers are 3-4 after an inexplicable loss to the Commanders. They’ve lost three straight, and Aaron Rodgers is frustrated. But anytime No. 12 is playing, the Packers have a chance. What better way for the Vikings to win a division or maybe even earn home field than by beating their rivals?


It’s not the regular season finale if the Vikings aren’t facing the Chicago Bears. This year it’s at Soldier Field, and it might be another lost season for the Bears after a 2-4 start. In the first meeting this year, Kirk Cousins capped a game-winning drive with a sneak for a touchdown, and Cam Dantzler taking the ball away from Ihmir Smith-Marsette sealed the win.

Other than maybe Buffalo, there’s not a game left on the schedule the Vikings can’t win. They’re also capable of getting beat any week. Enjoy the ride.