What a weird season it’s been for the Minnesota Vikings. And there are still three games left. And they still have a chance, albeit slim, to make the playoffs.

The Vikings started 5-0, and they could do no wrong. Then the mistakes and the injuries piled up, and they lost five of their next six games to fall to 6-6. The Vikings got back over .500 with a 25-16 win at Jacksonville Sunday.

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There’s still hope, and there will be until the Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention. We’re less than two weeks away from Christmas, so what “gifts” can the Vikings give their fans? Here are four ideas to start with, and they don’t require a last second trip to the mall or a boring gift card. And no, a fruit cake that nobody wants isn’t an option.

(credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

A Healthy Offensive Line

The Vikings offense faced an uphill battle before the season even started. They lost starters Phil Loadholt and Matt Kalil to injury. They released center John Sullivan due to his back problems, and several others have missed time with injuries. It’s a list that includes Joe Berger, who took over for Sullivan at center, and Jake Long, who signed as a free agent in-season and then suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Even Alex Boone and Brandon Fusco have gone down with injuries during the season. Andre Smith has also been out since October with a triceps injury. T.J. Clemmings has been healthy, but statistically he’s been one of the worst offensive linemen in the NFL this season.

The Vikings have one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL, and a banged up offensive line has a lot to do with that. A healthy group that plays with continuity can go a long way towards being better at running the football. It would also help the passing attack if Sam Bradford had time in the pocket and didn’t have to run for his life. The problem is the line isn’t getting healthier any time soon.

Teddy Bridgewater (credit: CBS)

Teddy Bridgewater (credit: CBS)

A Healthy Teddy Bridgewater

Seeing an injury trend yet? The Vikings organization and their fans collectively gasped when Teddy Bridgewater went down before the regular season with a year-ending non-contact leg injury. He had to be rushed to a hospital after falling during practice, presumably to keep that leg intact. Suddenly a season full of promise with a leader behind center was in shambles.

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Then, the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford. He played well enough in the first four games that Bridgewater’s long-term future with the Vikings was in doubt. Regardless of how the season finishes, Bradford will be looking for a long-term contract. Bridgewater likely won’t be ready for the start of the 2017 season, so the Vikings will have a decision to make on their franchise quarterback. A healthy Bridgewater deserves another chance, we just don’t know yet if it will be with the Vikings. It’s tough luck for a guy on the verge of breaking out in the NFL who is loved by his teammates and coaches.

(credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

A Healthy Adrian Peterson

Yeah the offensive line is beat up and Bridgewater went down, but the Vikings still had Adrian Peterson. He’s one of the best running backs in the NFL. He can hit a home run any time he gets the ball. And then it happened. The Vikings hosted the Packers in the regular season debut of U.S. Bank Stadium. Peterson went down with a knee injury and had to be carried by trainers off the field and into the locker room. The result? A torn meniscus. Seriously.

Ugh. The injuries for the Vikings went from miserable to a gut punch. He’s been out since Week 2, but there have been signs he could return before the end of the regular season. He made it public that the Vikings would have to be in playoff contention for him to return. If the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt, he’s hoping to make his return at Lambeau Field against the Packers on Christmas Eve.

But will he be back with the Vikings next year? It’s way too early to know. He’s guaranteed to make $18 million next year, but there is no way the Vikings will pay him that with his injury history. He would have to take a pay cut, which is unlikely. This season could’ve been far less difficult and more enjoyable for fans if he could stay healthy. Of course with the offensive line in front of him, it may not matter how good he is.

An NFC North Division Title

There are few NFL teams that could survive everything the Vikings have been through. A myriad of injuries, the offensive coordinator resigns in season and Mike Zimmer even missed a game with a detached retina. The head coach darn near went blind over football. He beat the Jaguars with one eye, and after not being on the field for a loss to the Cowboys, said he felt like he let a lot of people down.

What if the Vikings win out, the Lions are the Lions and the Vikings win the NFC North? In a crazy year, it would only make sense, right? What’s the ultimate Christmas gift the Vikings can give their fans? How about an INDOOR HOME PLAYOFF GAME. Overcome all odds, do your job and make the playoffs. Do that and many of the frustrations about the season can be forgotten.

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Because once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen. Anything. Especially if you’re watching a home playoff game inside in a controlled climate. And with Kai Forbath kicking, “wide left” has left the vocabulary for Vikings fans. Yes, I went there. But if the Vikings don’t reach the postseason, it’s an easier pill to swallow with being unable to get past all the injuries. After all, there’s always next year.