Around the Horns: Setting up the Vikings' second-half schedule

Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

Minnesota Vikings players return to work on Monday (assuming they can get to the team's facilities in the middle of a snowstorm forecast to wallop the Twin Cities) to begin their final seven-game push after their bye week. While the headlines figure to be dominated by what the NFL will, won't, should or shouldn't do with Adrian Peterson, the focus inside the building will be on trying to take advantage of the soft spots in the Vikings' second-half schedule and boosting their faint playoff hopes.

The Vikings' post-bye-week slate begins with a game in Chicago against a Bears team that got throttled on Sunday night and effectively saw its playoff hopes die in Green Bay. If the Vikings can win at Soldier Field for the first time since 2007, they'd be 5-5 headed into a three-game homestand, which begins on Nov. 23 against the Packers before two games against teams with losing records (the Panthers and the Jets).

All told, the Vikings play four of their final seven games against sub-.500 teams. They've beaten four teams with three or fewer wins -- their strength of victory is just .278, tied for third-lowest in the NFL -- and the Vikings can get to eight wins simply by taking care of business against the lower-end teams they face.

Considering they're ninth in the NFL and two games out of the final playoff spot, though, the Vikings would likely need 10 wins to make a legitimate run. That means winning all but one of the final seven games, and scoring a road win over either the Lions or the Dolphins. The Vikings haven't shown they're capable of that kind of a run yet, but with four home dates still on the schedule and some favorable matchups coming up, they at least have an opportunity to keep themselves relevant.

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