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On a week when two of their NFC North competitors dealt away players just before the trade deadline, the Minnesota Vikings were hoping to strengthen their bid to win a second straight NFC North title by adding players – their own.

The Vikings have been hit hard by injuries, which is partly why they've been a disappointment in the first half of their season.

Getting some of the injured players back can help them improve on the 4-3-1 record they take into Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions, who along with the Green Bay Packers are division rivals who made trades on Tuesday.

The Lions dealt wide receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia in exchange for a third-round draft pick while the Packers traded away starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and backup running back and return man Ty Montgomery.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wasn't interested in talking about trades by other teams – except for the impact of not having to contend with Tate on Sunday.

"I'm so into what we're doing – I'm not into it, what else is going on around the league," Zimmer said Wednesday.

Zimmer was understandably more interested in favorable reports concerning his own players. The Vikings played without six injured starters in Sunday night's 30-20 loss at home to the New Orleans Saints.

They were evenly divided – three each on offense and defense. Missing on offense were left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Tom Compton and running back Dalvin Cook. The defense was without linebacker Anthony Barr, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Andrew Sendejo.

"I think we're going to get some guys back," Zimmer said without specifying who might return. "It sounds encouraging."

One player who returned was defensive end Everson Griffen, who played against the Saints after missing the previous five games because of personal problems.

Griffen is an impact player. He averaged just under 11 sacks a year for the previous four seasons, with a career high of 13 in 2017. He had a half sack in each of the first two games this year – a win over the 49ers and a tie with the Packers – before taking a break to deal with his issues

Playing 37 of 53 defensive snaps against the Saints, Griffen contributed only one assisted tackle, but Zimmer expects him to benefit from having a game under his belt.

"Everson's always a guy who's going to hit the ground running," Zimmer said. "You're out of football for four weeks, or whatever it was – it's different conditioning in running, lifting weights and all that.

"Then you go out and you're playing football. I would think there were some plays he wishes he had over, and there were some good plays as well."

There were high expectations this year for the Vikings to be a dominant team in the NFC and win a second straight division title. They won the North last season with a 13-3 record and made it to the NFC Championship, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles.

Much of the optimism stemmed from the signing of free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to upgrade an already potent offense.

Meet this weeks opponents, the Minnesota Vikings

The former Michigan State star has done his part. Cousins has 2,521 passing yards – only five behind league leader Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs – with 16 TDs, four interceptions and a 70.7-percent completion rate.

The Vikings have the league's top receiving tandem in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Thielen leads the league in receptions (74) and receiving yards (925). Diggs is tied for fourth with 58 catches, good for 587 yards.

As the Vikings begin the second half of their season – with a bye coming up after Sunday – they can look back on missed opportunities to take control of the North.

One was a missed 35-yard field goal attempt by rookie Daniel Carlson on the last play of an overtime tie with the Packers in Week 2. Carlson was cut before the next game.

Another was an inexcusable 27-6 loss at home to the Buffalo Bills in Week 3.

The Vikings had two costly turnovers – an interception and a lost fumble – in last week's loss to the Saints.

The good news for the Vikings is that their injured players are healing with the bye week approach.

The bad news – the injuries to their won-loss record are permanent.

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