A weekly examination of the Vikings' ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 17 | Last Week: 24 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
The Vikings were off last week, so their four-spot drop in the rankings is due at least partially to some of the teams behind them (the Eagles, Raiders and Rams) winning in Week 5. But after Minnesota won its first game of the season on Sept. 29 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London, it lurched into a quarterback controversy, with Matt Cassel leading the Vikings to the win in Christian Ponder's absence and the team signing Josh Freeman to a one-year deal this week. Figuring out who's under center will be the primary topic for Minnesota during the next few weeks, as the Vikings try to determine first whether Ponder or Cassel should start on Sunday and then how soon -- and how much -- Freeman factors into the situation.
If the Vikings can figure things out, the next few weeks present a ripe opportunity to improve their record and get back into the playoff race. They face the 1-3 Carolina Panthers at home on Sunday, before heading to New York for a "Monday Night Football" date with the 0-5 Giants. Then comes a Sunday night matchup with the Green Bay Packers, who will be without linebacker Clay Matthews. By the time the Vikings go to Dallas on Nov. 3, they will either have turned their season around or missed possibly their best opportunity to do so, turning the chief aim of their season into solving their quarterback puzzle for the future.