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Vikings can clinch the NFC North this weekend. Are they thinking about that?

To do that, the Vikings need to beat the New York Jets at home on Sunday, and they need the Detroit Lions to lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home.

NFL: New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen celebrates his touchdown against the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports
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EAGAN, Minn. -- The first season of the Kevin O’Connell era couldn’t be going much better. Not only are the vibes immaculate inside of TCO Performance Center in Eagan, but the Minnesota Vikings also boast an impressive 9-2 record and can lock up the NFC North as soon as this weekend.

To do that, the Vikings need to beat the New York Jets at home on Sunday, and they need the Detroit Lions to lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home.

Both of those things seem plausible, and if they happen, the Vikings would tie an NFL record for the earliest a team has ever clinched a division title in the Super Bowl era. They would join the 1973 Vikings, 1985 Chicago Bears, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles, 2007 New England Patriots, and 2009 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams to do so with five weeks left on the schedule.

Not that the Vikings are thinking too much about that. As of right now, they still appear to be focusing on process over results.

“I think ignorance is bliss,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “We want to go 1-0 this week. I really try to simplify my thought process. I don’t need to think about other things. I don’t like to waste energy on things I can’t control. What we can control is the way we play on Sunday.”

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It helps that the Vikings are coming off what O’Connell dubbed “a mini bye week” after earning a 33-26 win over the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving. That win was very important for the Vikings as they needed to bounce back from a 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys less than a week earlier.

“It’s been a few weeks since we’ve really been able to have a standard practice week,” O’Connell said. “As I told our team today, the best teams in this league, I believe, improve during stretches like this.”

Kevin-OConnell-Headshot.jpg
Kevin O’Connell

Though the week and a half between games gives the Vikings some extra time to recover, there are also some challenges to getting back to full speed. That puts a premium on this week of practice as the Vikings prepare for a tough game against the Jets.

“It’s got to be all about this week and getting a win,” Cousins said. “Nothing else matters. Nothing else in the past matters. Nothing else in the future matters.”

In other words, the Vikings can’t get ahead of themselves simply because they appear to be running away with the division title. Even if they accomplish that goal, they need to move on to the next and keep building as they progress toward the playoffs. There are still a couple of months before the Super Bowl.

MORE MINNESOTA VIKINGS COVERAGE:
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A replacement for Eagles OLB Hasson Reddick, Hunter will join five teammates Sunday in Las Vegas
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Winners to be announced at the NFL Honors event on Feb. 9
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Jefferson led the NFL with 128 catches and 1,809 receiving yards in his third season. He would become the first wideout ever to win AP MVP honors.
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Analyst Jason Fitzgerald, using a possible cap number of $225 million, has the Vikings now at $24.55 million over the cap, which gives them the third-least amount of room among all NFL teams.
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Minnesota fired Ed Donatell on Thursday after the Vikings’ first-round playoff loss to the New York Giants
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Peterson, 32, will become a free agent in March after playing the past two seasons for Minnesota
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The Vikings ranked No. 31 in the NFL in total defense during the regular season. The issues continued in the playoffs, when they gave up 431 total yards to the New York Giants.
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The playoff game was a microcosm of the past few months with Donatell at the helm. No pressure. No adjustments. No success.

As for potentially locking up the NFC North this weekend, the Vikings know that will take care of itself if they stick to the process.

“We put ourselves in position to do it, so credit the guys in this locker room and everybody that’s been involved in us getting to this point,” running back Dalvin Cook said. “It’s in front of us and we still have to go out and compete and win games. It starts today with us going out and having a clean practice and locking in.”

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