Minnesota Vikings: Win over Indianapolis Necessary to Make Playoffs

Mike NelsonCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2012

If Christian Ponder has playoff aspirations for his Minnesota Vikings then he must lead his team to victory in Week 2.
If Christian Ponder has playoff aspirations for his Minnesota Vikings then he must lead his team to victory in Week 2.Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Week 2 is a must-win game for the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s scary to think that anyone would say that for a game this time of the year is a must-win, but I’m going there.

Minnesota sits in a tie for first place in the NFC North as Week 2 continues Sunday.

Minnesota’s winning beginning has some fans believing that a playoff run is in the Vikings’ 2012 future (although plenty were believers before Week 1). That dream will die if the Vikings cannot beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.

Yes it's early, but the Vikings play in arguably the toughest division in the NFL.

The Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers all have legitimate reasons to believe they will be playoff-bound in 2012.

Green Bay went 15-1 last season and still boasts one of the top offenses in the NFL and an improving defense.

The Bears have a stable, reliable defense with an improving offense. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte are a nice three-headed weapon for quarterback Jay Cutler to work with.

Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are right there with the Green Bay Packers relative to offensive production. They can go point-for-point with any team in the league and provide a defense that’s not afraid to knock its opposition in the teeth.

That leaves the Minnesota Vikings.

They have Adrian Peterson and an improving Christian Ponder to complement an unreliable defense (for now). Kyle Rudolph is on the track toward tight end stardom and Percy Harvin is one of the best receivers in the game from the slot position.

Overall, on paper, Minnesota lacks the firepower to keep up with the potent offenses of the NFC North and the overpowering defense to keep those offenses in check.

Plenty can happen over a 16-game schedule spanning four-plus months. Opposing players can get injured. Opposing players can disappoint. Chemistry can disrupt a team's momentum.

The list goes on.

But it’s tough to the see the Vikings posting a winning record let alone making the postseason without placing this Colts game in the win column.

To make the postseason Minnesota will need 10 wins—some years that number isn’t even enough.

Games that are considered toss-ups or favorable matchups for Minnesota the rest of the season (Jacksonville would be in here): at Indianapolis, Tennessee, Arizona, Tampa Bay, at Seattle and at St. Louis.

That gives Minnesota seven wins if it takes those games plus Jacksonville.

The remaining games: home and away against Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago, San Francisco, at Washington (who was considered a toss-up prior to Week 1) and at Houston.

To make the playoffs without the Indianapolis win, Minnesota would have to steal four or more of those games; with a win over Indianapolis, the Vikings need only three.

The margin of error is slim.

All of those teams, minus an improved-Washington and Chicago, were playoff teams in 2011. Chicago may have been if not for injuries to Cutler and Matt Forte.

I was very pessimistic about Minnesota winning any divisional games prior to the season, but a win against Detroit and/or Chicago at home isn’t inconceivable (I still see the Vikings at 1-5 in division play). But to steal any game on the road in the NFC North shouldn’t be expected.

That means Minnesota still must beat Washington, Houston or San Francisco to get its 10th win. It’s a tall order to beat one of them, let alone two.

So for those of you expecting a postseason berth in 2012, pray the Vikings win Sunday. It’s a long road to the postseason with a win over Indianapolis. That road becomes that much longer without the win over Indianapolis.