About a month ago, it looked like a near certainty that the Week 11 Sunday night game between the Vikings and Broncos in Denver would be flexed out because both teams were well under .500. Yet now it's one of the marquee matchups of the week, as Minnesota is on a five-game winning streak and Denver has won three straight. The Broncos are -2.5 on the SportsLine consensus, but that's apparently right where the Vikings want to be.
If Minnesota had lost in Chicago in Week 6 to drop to 1-5, the season was probably over. But the Vikings prevailed in a rather ugly 19-13 contest as a 3-point favorite. The four-game ATS underdog run started the next week with a home upset of the 49ers with Minnesota at +6.5. The past two were without quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is done for the season and almost surely done as a Viking. New cult hero and trade deadline acquisition Joshua Dobbs has been mostly responsible for the past two victories.
What's even more astounding is that all five wins have come without injured superstar receiver Justin Jefferson, who might return on Sunday. He's practiced in a limited fashion this week but has not been activated off IR yet. The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year has made it clear that he won't be returning until he's at 100%, especially with the biggest contract ever for a wideout likely coming this offseason. Based on some of Kevin O'Connell's comments earlier this week, it doesn't seem likely Jefferson will play Sunday... although, Jefferson did say this:
"I'm the main person that's going to make the decision at the end of the day. I'm the person that's going out there running," he said. "I'm the person that's going out there and putting my body on the line to win games and do things for this organization. I know how I feel, I know how my hamstring is feeling," Jefferson said. "Of course we're going to weigh in on all the different opinions and what everyone has to say, but at the end of the day I'm the one that's going out there and putting my body on the line."
Naturally, Broncos coach Sean Payton says his team is preparing for Jefferson.
How good has Dobbs been? The journeyman, whom any team could have had ahead of the deadline for a late-round pick – I guarantee you Cleveland wishes they'd never cut him – is the first quarterback since the merger with two wins, two passing TDs, two rushing TDs and 200 passing yards per game in the first two games with the franchise. Dobbs has vaulted himself into the NFL Comeback Player of the Year race, now a +475 third favorite behind Buffalo's Damar Hamlin (-200) and Miami's Tua Tagovailoa (+200) at DraftKings.
On Sunday, the Vikings can become the first team since the 2011 Broncos, quarterbacked by Tim Tebow, to win five straight games outright as a dog. That Denver team finished 8-8 but snuck into the playoffs. At 6-4, Minnesota currently holds down the NFC's final spot and is -200 to reach the postseason for the second year in a row. The Vikings would become the seventh team since 1970 to reach the playoffs after a 0-3 start.
Denver's winning streak has been largely on the back of its defense. The Broncos are coming off upsets over the Chiefs and Bills (bye week in between). Denver can become the first team in NFL history to defeat a team that won at least 13 games the previous season in three straight games. The Broncos haven't won four in a row since 2016.
It's still extremely unlikely that Payton's club makes the playoffs as it sits in 14th place in the AFC. Denver is +550 to play extra football and -900 to not.
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