"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs, are you kidding me? Playoffs?"
So asked an exasperated Jim Mora in 2001 when his Indianapolis Colts had fallen to 4-6 following a loss in week 10.
To any rational football fan, the answer to the question posed in the headline above is pretty simple: They don't. But then, is there any such thing as a rational football fan?
The reality is that after 11 weeks, the Minnesota Vikings are 6-5. Making the playoffs is a long shot, but certainly not impossible. In all likelihood, Minnesota will have to go 4-1 over their last five games to have any shot at making the postseason.
At this point that looks about as likely as Christian Ponder having a better career than Robert Griffin III.
The bad news for the Vikings is that they play three of their last five games on the road, where they are 1-4 on the year and got dominated in three of the four losses. On the bright side, the games at St. Louis and Texas are in controlled environments where the Vikings tend to play much better.
It's no small order at home either, where Minnesota will have to beat both Chicago and Green Bay if they are to reach 10 wins.
There are no two ways around it: The Vikings chances of making the playoffs were probably cut in half after they laid an egg in Chicago on Sunday afternoon.
Winning at Lambeau Field next Sunday looks like a long shot, but it's not impossible. If the Vikings were to knock off the Packers and move to 7-5 with four games to play, the playoff conversation would certainly change. Such is the week-to-week life in the 2012 NFL.
Every other game on the schedule is winnable—not probable, but not impossible.
This is probably a good time to remind everyone with a rooting interest in Minnesota that this was never going to be a playoff season anyway. Last year's 3-13 team was every bit as awful as that record indicates, and a rebuild was in order.
Yes, the Colts were 1-15 last year and are 7-4 right now, but they got a franchise-changing quarterback in the draft in Andrew Luck. The Redskins got one in RGIII. Those two make everyone around them better.
Christian Ponder isn't that guy. It still remains to be seen if Ponder can be a part of a turnaround, but it's obviously clear that he's not going to be a superstar.
Eli Manning isn't a superstar either, but he can play like one for stretches at a time and has two rings, so that could be the bar that Ponder aims for. What Manning does have are great receivers, something Ponder surely lacks.
You can get by with a good quarterback throwing to great receivers or vice versa. But it's pretty hard to get by when you're mediocre at both, and that's what the Vikings are right now. A receiving corps that got the job done against the Lions two weeks ago was awful against the Bears on Sunday.
The Vikings still have a ways to go before becoming a legitimate playoff contender. There are pieces that need to be added and the quarterback is still a giant question mark. The playoffs are probably out of the question for 2012, but the team has taken a giant step forward from the 3-13 season.