With the bears' loss on MNF, the same loss that made the Vikings the only team in the NFC north to have won against the 49ers, the aforementioned division just got a bit more interesting. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now a three horse race, and the beauty of it is, even second place is very likely to make the playoffs.
As we all know, the Vikings have an extremely difficult road ahead of them:
@ Green Bay
@ St. Luis
vs. Green Bay
Now, I'll go through these games, one by one, and break down what kind of a chance we have to win them.
First, the game at Chicago. I am extremely exited after the defensive struggles the Bears had on National television. They were unable to force turnovers, something they were quite adept at, going into this game. Jason Campbell will not set the world on fire, as long as you double team Brandon Marshall, and Forte is not his 2011 self. If Kluwe and the coverage unit can do their job of not just preventing a run-back, but consistently working toward setting the Vikes up with good field position, Cutler does not start, and Ponder does not allow the Bears defense to get back on track, this is a win for us. (I don't even mention AD because we all know he's going over 200 in this one)
difficulty level: 7/10
Green Bay is much trickier. The Green Bay receiving corps is very deep, despite losing Greg Jennings. Cobb, Jones, Driver (he hasn't retired yet, right?), and Nelson are all legitimate threats. The trick is, with the Packers, to pressure/agitate both Rogers AND the receivers. In Seattle, the offensive line of Green Bay was about as useful as a yacht is to a child in southern Sudan. And in Kansas city, a year ago, the Chiefs' DBs were able to rattle Green Bay's receivers enough that the drop rate, at least in crucial moments was near 50 percent. The team to execute both aspects of this game-plan (and whose game I actually saw) were the New York Giants, In the playoffs. Tuck, and JPP pressured Rogers, while the NY safeties and corners delivered big hits to remind the Packer's receivers why no one walks the alleys of New York once the sun goes down (not even Chuck Norris or the guy from the Dos Equis commercials). This is Harrison Smith and Jared Allen's game. Throw in a turnover or two from Winfield the ageless wonder and Sanford the Fumballistic Freak, and we've got ourselves a 4-0 record within the division.
difficulty level: 8.5/10
now we're at home against Chicago. Cutler's most likely back, and we've endured two brutal weeks of NFC Norse football. even though we're at home, We all know the Vikes are not consistent enough to win all three of these games. The keys to winning this one are the same as the first, I just don't believe that Ponder will be able to limit his turnovers in this one.
difficulty level: 9/10
FINALLY, AN EASY WIN! not so fast there. The rams are a completely different team at home than they are on the road. That being said, I do think we'll take this one. Danny Amendola is the only receiving threat on this team and he's short enough that Winfield can cover him, notch that as a Win for us. Cortland Finnegan and the Rams secondary are what stand in our way from downing 3 of 4 NFC West opponents.
difficulty level: 4.5/10
The Texans face the Lions, Titans, Patriots and Colts before, they do us. I would pencil that as 3 wins, and one tossup, that being the game against New England. If they lose the game against New England, they're 12-2, and most likely have a first-round bye. If the Texans decide to rest their starters, in the second to last game of the season, we have ourselves a great game. Two great defenses, good RBs (remember, Ben Tate is probably the best backup RB in the NFL) and young QBs, those being Ponder and T.J Yates. This one rides on Ponder. With our Defense and Special teams edging their 2nd Stringers, and Peterson being the monster he is, we just need ponder to keep the ball in our possession, and distribute the rock, Percy will inevitably make something happen, but don't forget that he's not the only receiver out there.
difficulty level: 6.5/10 (with starters, 9.5/10)
And the season will likely end with a letdown. Oh if we could only sweep those [insert inappropriate name here]s from Green Bay, but, alas, It's not in the cards. The Packers will being vying for some playoff consideration and our poor Vikings will not be able to match the offensive display. This one' s all on Ponder (again) Rogers will let it fly, we'll need CP7 to match his performance from his first start, only without the Woodson interceptions if we hope to go 5-1 in our division.
difficulty level: 8.5/10
The vikings now have a 10-6 record, woohoo! that should make the playoffs, right?
yes (I think) but not how you might expect. This prediction has the Bears just being edged out by the Packers due to their sweeping of said Bears. Giving the Packers an 11-5 record. The Bears, also with an 11-5 record, will then take the first wild card spot. here's how I have this playing out.
The Packers' upcoming record:
at Giants (6-4) L
vs. Vikings (6-4) L
vs. Lions (4-6) W
at Bears (7-3) W
vs. Titans (4-6) W
at Vikings (6-4) W
The Bears upcoming record:
vs. Vikings (6-4) L
vs. Seahawks (6-4) W (lucky SOBs get to play 'em at home)
at Vikings (6-4) W
vs. Packers (7-3) L
at Cardinals (4-6) W
at Lions (4-6) W
That leaves one Wild Card spot left. so It comes down to 4 teams. The red-hot NFC south gulf-coast offensive powerhouses (RHNFCSGCOP for short), those being Tampa Bay and New Orleans, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Minnesota Vikings.
Tampa Bay and New Orleans are both going 8-8, and since we're not in the AFC, that won't cut it. The Bucs have the Falcons twice, the Saints, and the Broncos. The Saints will lose to the Falcons, 49ers and Giants (in New York).
so that leaves us the Seahawks. Due to our loss to that very team, It will take us topping their record to snatch up that elusive last Wild Card. The Seahawks play the Dolphins, Bears, Cardinals, Bills, 49ers and Rams.
The two probable losses are the Bears and 49ers. And just like that, if the 'Hawks lose one more game, we go to the playoffs, which is exactly what will happen. I predict that the Seahawks will lose to the lowly Cardinals. why? you might ask? The seahawks prey on teams' inability to match up against their great DBs, but the cardinals have Fitz, so that takes at least two of your very best backs out of the game, protecting him. second, Russell Wilson is a rookie, and Marshawn Lynch is the only truly dependable offensive weapon. This is perfect. The Cards are great in run defense, and their safeties and corners are opportunistic. Lastly, and probably most significantly, they're in the same division, and they've already won this game (at home, and before they started to be bad). All division games are tossups, no matter how good or bad a team is, look at Houston and Jacksonville, or St. Luis and San Francisco. The coaching staffs of each team know the other team quite well, and they know how to scheme around their strengths, and exploit their weaknesses.
So just like that. The Minnesota Vikings take the 6th seed in the NFC. And who, might you ask, is our first round opponent? none other than our most hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers.
Will it happen? probably not, but it'd be pretty cool, huh?