As far as the playoff chase goes, this is a big game for the Vikings. With the Lions fading fast and the Cardinals facing a tough road trip to Seattle, the Vikings are in a prime position to jump into the driver's seat in the chase for a wild card berth this weekend. The game that's probably the biggest and most important on our remaining schedule is next week's game, which sees us hosting the Bears on Monday Night Football from the Metrodome. It will play a role in both our conference record AND our divisional record, should the latter come into play (which I doubt, at this point). It will also be a chance for the Vikings to return the favor to a team that swept them in less-than-convincing fashion a season ago.
So, we have a road game against a weaker opponent in a week leading up to a big game at home against a division rival?
Yep. . .sounds like a trap game to me.
Now, if you look at the Vikings and look at the Niners, it's obvious that the Niners are a team the Vikings should beat. They're lousy against the run (26th in the NFL), slightly less lousy against the pass (21st), not a great defense overall (23rd in yards allowed and 24th in points allowed). . .oh, and and they're dead last in the NFL in points scored, total yards, and passing yards when it comes to their offense. Since opening the season 2-0, they've lost 9 out of 10, with their lone victory actually helping the Vikings out, as they beat Arizona in overtime 37-31.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are rolling, having won 4 out of their last 5, and having outscored their last two opponents by a combined tally of 83-27. The Vikings now rank 10th in both points scored AND points allowed, and though the defense is still dead last in the NFL against the pass, they gave up a lot of yards playing soft defenses against teams they were blowing out. The defense has gotten markedly better since the debacle on 11 November, and hopefully that will continue.
The Vikings aren't in anything even remotely resembling a position to let themselves get cocky about things. Yes, the season has turned around and yes, the Vikings are playing well. But Brad Childress simply can NOT allow the Beloved Purple to look past the Niners and on to the matchup with the Bears on 17 December. The Vikings, over the years, have been notorious for playing down to the level of their competition, and with the roll this team has been on recently, they need to avoid a letdown as they head out west.
Here are the games that are pertinent to the Vikings' pursuit of a playoff spot this weekend. Teams in bold are the ones that, in my opinion, Viking fans should be pulling for.
Minnesota at San Francisco - If you disagree with this one, you're probably in the wrong place.
Chicago at Washington (Thursday night) - Yes, I don't like cheering for the Bears, either, but a loss would essentially eliminate Washington from serious consideration. Plus, we'll take care of the Bears ourselves next Monday night.
Dallas at Detroit - Detroit loss = good for us.
New York Giants at Philadelphia - A Giants' loss coupled with a Vikings' win, and we'd sit one game behind the Giants, who we hold the head-to-head tie-breaker over
Carolina at Jacksonville - Carolina loss = good for us.
Arizona at Seattle - Arizona loss = good for us
New Orleans at Atlanta (Monday night) - New Orleans loss = good for us. Unfortunately, if last week's game was any indicator, the Falcons may have folded up the tents for the season already.
But it all starts at 3 PM Central on Sunday. . .and I hope the Vikings' players and coaches realize that.