RealClearSports
Advertisement

Vikings War Cry


November 22, 2012 11:19 AM

The Stretch Run

Peterson triumphant.jpeg
Coming off of an embarrassing 3-13 season last year, the Minnesota Vikings have done a good job of properly turning that season into an aberration. Now with six games remaining in the regular season, the question begs...can the Vikings take a rebuilding year to the next level, by making the playoffs?

At the beginning of the year the majority of football fans - most Minnesota fans included - would not have given the Vikings much chance of controlling their own destiny in winning the NFC North Division come Thanksgiving Day. Yet, that is indeed the reality.

With four games remaining against division foes Green Bay and Chicago, both of whom currently own a share of first place and are one game ahead of the Vikings, splitting the four games would put the Vikings in good shape. Having already swept division rival Detroit, a split would leave the Vikings with a 4-2 division mark and with at least eight victories overall.

Ten victories will almost ensure a playoff berth because - while it does occur on occasion - seldom do 10-6 teams fail to qualify for postseason. Even nine wins would give the Vikings a decent shot at making the playoffs. The aforementioned split combined with a win at Saint Louis against the 3-6-1 Rams would give the Vikings a ninth win.

That formula combined with an upset victory in Chicago, Green Bay or Houston would give the Vikings a 10th win, and an almost certain playoff appearance. Given that the Vikings are 5-1 at home this year and only 1-3 on the road, winning the two remaining games in the Metrodome becomes imperative. The Vikings soundly beat the San Francisco 49ers at home already, and while the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are certainly legitimate playoff contenders, neither of them were much of a match for the 49ers in their respective meetings.

If the Vikings play up to their potential, they frankly should win their two remaining home games against the Bears and Packers, and should also defeat the Rams on the road. Doing so would make this a very successful season in context to what they suffered through in 2011, but the Vikings should be thinking post-season this year nonetheless.

Going into Chicago this Sunday, the Vikings are actually catching the Bears at a very opportune time. The Monsters of the Midway, have now seemed to have lost their way.

After a very dismal showing in a home loss against the Texans followed up by a simply dreadful performance in the Bay Area against the 49ers Monday night, the Bears just might be ready for the taking. With backup quarterback Jason Campbell getting little or no time to throw Monday night, whether he or regular Bears starter Jay Cutler is back behind center on Sunday, Chicago's offense has some major issues.

The Bears' combined 13 points scored over their past two games, should give the Vikings plenty of confidence that they can steal a road win in a place where they have had so much difficulty for the first part of this century. Since the 1900s, the Vikings only have wins at Soldier Field in 2000 and 2007. Should Minnesota win on Sunday, the upset would give the Vikings "house money" to play with in terms of the wins they need down the stretch, and should the Packers stumble Sunday night in New York against the Giants, a three-way tie for first place would be the result.

With parity having become a true reality in the NFL nowadays, every game, every week, can come right down to the wire regardless of the matchup. Often it is simply a key play here, or a key play there that separates victory from defeat in today's NFL. While the Vikings have only one game remaining with a sub .500 team, it would be a mistake to assume that the difficulty of their remaining schedule makes a playoff appearance a long shot.

This season Minnesota has clearly shown the ability to lose to anyone, and to also defeat anyone. If they can simply take care of home field and win one out of four on the road, the Vikings could definitely be one of the 12 teams playing football in January while the other 20 teams are watching.

A Member Of