MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings have a chance to sew up the NFC North division title before most people have their Christmas trees up this year.
At 9-2, Minnesota currently has a five-game lead over the second-place Detroit Lions, who are 4-7.
Per the NFL, the Vikings will clinch the division this weekend if they win and the Lions lose or tie. The Vikings could also clinch if they tie the New York Jets and the Lions lose.
According to NFL researcher Joe Ferreira, claiming the division title with five weeks to go would tie the earliest clinching in the Super Bowl era. Six other teams have done it, including the 1973 Vikings.
The Vikings host the surprisingly feisty Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium at noon Sunday. New York is currently 2-0 against the NFC North, having beaten the Green Bay Packers 27-10 and the Chicago Bears 31-10. At 7-4, the Jets are firmly in the race for the AFC East.
The Jets also earned an unexpected boost from the benching of starting quarterback Zach Wilson last week. Reliever Mike White threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns against a porous Bears defense.
The Vikings' defense isn't much more stout -- they rank 21st and 31st in points and yards allowed per game, respectively. They'll need another stellar performance from their offense, which-- one of the league's best defenses -- last week.
The Lions, meanwhile, just ended a hot streak. Before losing 28-25 to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving, Detroit had won three in a row -- two of those games against the Packers and Bears. They also play at noon, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Should things go sideways this weekend -- meaning the Vikings lose and the Lions win -- Minnesota can still clinch the division by beating the Lions the following week.
If the Vikings do indeed claim the title early, they'll set their sights on the NFC's No. 1 seed and a first-round playoff bye. They're currently second behind the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles, who also own a tiebreaker over the Vikings after beating them earlier this season. Three of the Vikings' final six games are at home, and four of them are against teams with losing records.
The Eagles also play three more home games, but four of their remaining six are against winning teams, including the Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys, who are jockeying with Philadelphia for the NFC East title.
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