Vikings: Playoffs!? Well, if they win ...
[size=18px]Vikings: Playoffs!? Well, if they win ... [/size]
While Mike Tice wants the Vikings to put their focus entirely on the game at hand, a look at the big picture shows they can't afford many missteps if they are to make the postseason.
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: December 5, 2005 at 11:02 PM
Now it's starting to get interesting. As the NFL season rolls into its final quarter, the Vikings have hurtled into a dramatic, if unanticipated, position: the confines of a playoff race -- and with it, talk of tiebreakers, strength of schedules and "if-then" scenarios.
A month ago, who would have thunk it?
"We would have thought that," tight end Jermaine Wiggins said Monday, a day after the Vikings improved their record to 7-5 with a 21-16 victory at Detroit. "[The media] wouldn't have thought it. We definitely thought we had the ability even if everybody else didn't."
Yet even after winning five consecutive games and six of seven, the Vikings remain on the fringe of the NFC wild-card chase. Now that Seattle has clinched the NFC West, five of the top six teams vying for the NFC's remaining playoff spots hold a tiebreaker advantage over the Vikings; only the New York Giants (8-4) would lose a wild-card tiebreaker if they finish the season with the same record as the Vikings.
While there is much to be decided, the Vikings almost certainly must win three of their remaining four games and possibly finish 4-0 to ensure a playoff spot.
And while Chicago maintains a two-game lead in the NFC North, the Vikings tiebreaker situation makes a division championship their clearest path to the postseason.
"Our focus isn't on the wild card," linebacker Keith Newman said. "Our focus is to win the NFC North. That's our No. 1 goal, first and foremost. ... The easiest way to ensure ourselves of a playoff spot is to take each Sunday at a time for the next four weeks and get a victory. If we do that, at 11-5 we'll be in the playoffs. But if we're going to rely on tiebreakers or we need this to happen or that to happen, then we'll find ourselves on the outside looking in."
The final push must begin Sunday against St. Louis, a team that has trounced the Vikings in their past three meetings by a combined score of 137-83. In those three games -- the 1999 divisional playoff contest, along with regular-season matchups in 2000 and 2003, all in St. Louis -- the Rams have amassed 1,370 yards of offense. Their quarterbacks have completed 81 percent of their passes, running back Marshall Faulk has produced 422 total yards and six touchdowns, and the Rams receiving duo of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce has combined for 37 receptions and 595 yards.
Although the architect of that offense, coach Mike Martz, is on medical leave and has been replaced by Joe Vitt, the numbers gave Vikings coach Mike Tice plenty of motivational ammunition Monday. The Vikings will play three of their remaining four games at the Metrodome, but Tice made vague threats Monday about players who peer into the crystal ball.
"Players will not be allowed to look ahead if I can help it," Tice said. "I don't want to hear any discussion about anything other than the Rams. I think they'll adhere to that advice, or they should. If they don't, we'll see what type of penalties we'll employ. But we will not allow anybody to look ahead past St. Louis."
For the players, perhaps. Media? It's a free country.
The Vikings in essence are the NFC's eighth seed in a six-team playoff field. Their early-season losses to Tampa Bay (8-4), Carolina (9-3) and Atlanta (7-5) mean they must finish with better records to beat out any of them for a playoff spot. The Vikings also currently trail Dallas (7-5) because the Cowboys have a better conference record (6-3) than the Vikings (6-4).
Leapfrogging three teams during a four-game stretch is conceivable, but statistically it might be more difficult than snatching the division from Chicago. The Bears play three of their final four games on the road, including Sunday's matchup against Pittsburgh and consecutive games at Green Bay and the Vikings to finish the season.
Even if Bears win their next two games, the Vikings can set up a division title game Jan. 1 if they win their next three and Chicago loses Dec. 25 to the Packers.
"We have to think about [winning out]," Vikings safety Darren Sharper said. "You can't let it take over your thinking, because you have to concentrate on your next opponent. But in the back of your mind, you are thinking, 'If this team loses, hopefully we can gain a game.' We always are watching Chicago to see if they have dropped a game or to see who they're playing.
"The thing is, we can control our own destiny if we continue to win. That's something we haven't had around here in a while."
Who would have thunk it?
Re: Vikings: Playoffs!? Well, if they win ...
From the Pioneer Press;
Posted on Tue, Dec. 06, 2005
[size=18px]Wiggins: Vikings' path is clear[/size]
Jermaine Wiggins claims that the Vikings can win every game between now and the Super Bowl.
And then win the Super Bowl.
"I definitely think we can do those things," the Vikings' tight end said. "It's been done before."
Wiggins was on the 2001 New England Patriots, who won nine in a row, including the Super Bowl, after a 5-5 start. The Vikings already have won five straight after starting 2-5. To win the Super Bowl, they would need a win streak of 12 games, 13 if they're a wild card.
I don't see the Vikings catching the Chicago Bears in the NFC North or reaching the Super Bowl. I do see them in the playoffs as a wild card.
Once in the playoffs, they'll be a dangerous team and win a game or two. They'll beat anyone in the NFC except Seattle or Carolina. The Bears have a terrific defense, but their lack of offense will make them vulnerable in the playoffs.
The Vikings' defense, the catalyst for the five-game streak, will be better come playoff time because Fred Smoot and Kevin Williams will return. The offense will be improved, too. Brad Johnson gets more productive each week. Nate Burleson, now that he's healthy, and Koren Robinson, now that he understands the offense, will scald defenses.
"Yeah, we'll be explosive," coach Mike Tice said. "We're starting to gain some rhythm offensively."
They're gaining on the NFC teams with better records, too.
"I've been around long enough to know, in order to win championships, you have to have a lot of guys who might not do things great but do things well,' Wiggins said. "I think we have that."
Bob Sansevere can be reached at [email protected]