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Thread: Playoff thoughts heading into the Bears game

  1. #1

    Playoff thoughts heading into the Bears game

    By Michael Rand at StarTribune.com

    Because itís that time of year and because Minnesota teams have a habit of never making things easy, here is a look at five things to know and/or remember about the Vikings and this yearís NFL playoff chase:

    1) The Vikings still control their own destiny when it comes to winning their division. (This is an overused term in sports, making things sound more dramatic than they really are, but still). If Minnesota wins its next three games, including Week 17 at Lambeau Field, it will be guaranteed of winning the NFC North.

    Why? Because even if the Packers also win the next two games to maintain their one-game lead over the Vikings going into Week 17 (Green Bay is 9-4 after beating Dallas, while the Vikings fell to 8-5 with their loss to Arizona), if the Vikings win and tie the Packers at 11-5 in that scenario they win the division because of the second tiebreaker, a better division record.

    If the Vikings win their next two home games against the Bears and Giants, they will clinch a playoff spot, assuring themselves of no worse than a wild card berth, and will guarantee that their Week 17 game at Lambeau is for the division title.

    Even just winning just one of next two games ó both at home against Chicago and the Giants ó might be good enough to get the Vikings to a winner-take-all Week 17 game for the division, though the Vikings would then be relying on some help. The Packers are at Oakland next week and then at Arizona the week after that. If Green Bay loses one of those two, certainly possible given that Oakland just beat Denver and given how good Arizona has looked all year, the Vikings would still be in position to win the division in Week 17 simply by going 1-1 in the next two weeks.

    2) Green Bay can lose its next two and still win the division just with a Week 17 win over the Vikings. Thatís the prime position the Packers have put themselves in. Even if the Vikings win the next two and the Packers lose both, Green Bay would only be one game back heading into Week 17. And just as the Vikings would have the tiebreaker if they won Week 17, Green Bay would have it if they won because of a 2-0 head-to-head edge.

    3) The most likely outcomes if the Vikings make the playoffs are as follows:

    *Vikings are a wild card, either at 9-7 or 10-6, and are the No. 6 seed. This presumes Seattle finishes at least even with the Vikings (Seattle has very winnable home games against Cleveland and St. Louis before finishing against Arizona). If the Vikings are the No. 6 seed, they would likely have a rematch at Lambeau a week after their regular-season finale, since Green Bay would likely be the No. 3 seed. The only way that would change is if Green Bay leapfrogs Arizona to grab the No. 2 seed. Thatís possible since Arizona still has to play the Packers and finishes with a Week 17 game vs. Seattle. If the Packers go 3-0 and Arizona goes 1-2, including a loss to the Packers, Green Bay would be the No. 2 seed, Arizona would be the No. 3 seed, and the Vikings ó assuming they are the No. 6 seed ó would play at Arizona.

    *The Vikings win the NFC North. In this case, they would almost certainly be the No. 3 seed. And thereís a good chance Seattle would be the No. 6 seed since Green Bay is one game ahead of Seattle right now and holds any two-team tiebreaker with the Seahawks because of a head-to-head win. So in that scenario, Seattle would play at Minnesota, while Green Bay would play at the NFC East winner. If Seattle goes 3-0 and Green Bay goes 1-2 down the stretch, Green Bay would be the No. 6 seed and play at Minnesota.

    Regardless, it sets up for a pretty tough first-round matchup for the Vikings. Thatís where losing these last two while Seattle has gotten hot hurts Minnesota. For a while, it was trending toward the Vikings being the top wild card even if it lost the division race, in which case the Vikings would have had that enticing matchup against an NFC East winner. Now that seems less likely.

    4) Tampa Bay losing Sunday was big. That ensures that every team chasing the Vikings for the final wild card spot is at least two games back. There is a scenario where the Vikings could clinch a playoff berth as soon as next weekend by beating the Bears and getting some help. Even if they donít clinch next week, the Vikings would still be in pretty good shape to get into the playoffs at 9-7.

    5) The tiebreakers if the Vikings go 1-2 in their final three games are complicated (at least to me). I spent close to an hour on the white board this morning with fellow strib editor Chris Carr, producing that image you see. Long story short: the Vikings could make it much easier on everyone, including themselves, if they start winning again. But even if they make the playoffs ó which Five Thirty Eight puts at a 93 percent chance right now ó theyíre going to have a tough game right out of the gate.

  2. #2
    Why couldn't we just play Washington? Doh!

    Oh well, it's time to put up or shut up. I hope we're healthy and put in the effort we had against Arizona, which proves we're capable of beating anyone. But first things first: beat a very beatable Bears team and a Giants team that is looking pretty fierce offensively. Then off to Green Bay.

    I don't ask for much in this life but I would give your right arm to beat the Packers in that last regular season game, win the division out from under them, then knock them out of the playoffs the following week at home. Super Bowl would be sweet too but just give me that scenario to start.

  3. #3
    Well Hyper the Vikes beat the Bears and the GIants. Now all you have to do is find someone willing to sacrifice their right arm for you. By the way that was very generous of you to ofter. (LOL)

  4. #4
    Oh, I'm real generous with other people's body parts

    Man, wouldn't it be great to embarrass the Packers in prime time TV on their home field with the division on the line? A man can dream can't he?

  5. #5
    The Packers have had our number for a few years now so winning the division on their field would be awesome. Unfortunately I'm not overly confident that we will come away victorious. This game is eerily reminiscent to our first meeting this year. Vikings on a roll, Packers offense not clicking, Rodgers coming off some poorly played games and then they blew us out 30-13.

    That being said, if we can stop the Packers from jumping out to a big early lead we have the talent to beat them. We all know we are in trouble if we're forced to abandon the running game. We can not allow them to run the ball all over us like they did the first game and we need to contain Rodgers and not let him get out of the pocket. That last one is easier said than done. Oh, and it would be nice if the line gave Teddy some time to let plays develop this game.

    If we play our best I can see us winning in a close game.

  6. #6
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    All good points MIVike. What a feather in Mike Zimmer's cap it would be if the Vikings could take the division crown on Sunday night. Even though the Packers have not played their best this year they are still a veteran, battle tested team who have played in many big games over the last several years ... Plus they are at home. For most of the Vikings, a game like this is uncharted territory. The Packers are trying to hang on and the Vikings are young and hungry. It's a big hill to climb for Teddy and company but how else do you get to the top?

  7. #7
    Statistically speaking, the Packers and Vikings are fairly close in most categories, both offensively and defensively. Offensive pts/game= Minn 23, GB 23.7, rushing yds/game= Minn 137.3, GB 118.3, even passing yards/game isn't as far apart as recent history has shown= Minn 189.1 (31st in the NFL, kinda pathetic) and GB 215.3. Defensively points/game =Minn 19.3 GB 20.2, rushing yds/game Minn 111.5 GB 116.9, passing yds/game= Minn 250.1 GB 253.3. GB has 40 sacks so far, Minn has 38. GB has 15 ints, we have 12. Both teams are 10-5 and heading to the playoffs.

    It's a very close matchup. We might not win but there's no reason to believe we'll be killed or anything. We all of course realize that it being a nationally televised game and in Green Bay, there will be a pissant call or two that won't go our way, but that's the nature of the NFL. We're going to the playoffs so this game doesn't really matter that much. (but to be honest, I would like few things better than beating them on their home field in front of a national audience. For that to be the first step in a reversal of fortunes for the two franchises would almost make all the crap we've had to eat be worth it. Almost.)

  8. #8
    I didn't realize that the stats were that close across the board. I would have guessed that Green Bay had far better offensive stats and Minnesota would have the better defensive stats. I guess it makes sense since they both have the same record and have played basically the same schedule.

    As ovike pointed out, the one stat that we aren't close in is experience. Especially at the QB and head coaching positions. I'm a firm believer that it takes a year or two for teams to figure out how to win the big games. The great players figure out what it takes to step their game up a notch and lead their teams. And experienced coaches devise schemes that allow their players to excel. Lets not forget that Teddy and coach Zimmer are only in their 2nd years.

    With that being said, lets go out tonight and use the experience we've gained from our loses this year to kick Green Bay off the top of the NFC North. And if it doesn't happen, well, there's always next week because win or lose tonight we are in the playoffs!

    GO VIKES!!!

  9. #9
    First half is over and the Viks are up 6-3. That's good news for the Vikes. Vikes are/can keep Petterson the focus of the offense and keep Green Bay off balance. Need to do a better job on stopping the run. Overall, a good first half for Minnesota.

  10. #10
    Nobody is more surprised we won that one than I am. In true Vikings fashion, we did try to give it away late in the game (could Patterson possibly return to the Vikings next season?) but the Packers made their share of mistakes and (even more shockingly) got their share of penalties called on them. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears when they actually got some calls going against them, sometimes drive stoppers. That's what we do!

    I love the fact that this team is trending up and I attribute most of that to Mike Zimmer. We've had our share of listless, clueless, and uninspiring "leaders" in the past decade or so, but Zimmer is different. He is really the perfect coach for this team at this time. No-nonsense, aggressive, unapologetic and full of tough love, he is getting the most out of the roster that Spielman has gotten the most out of through the draft. He's missed on a pick or so here and there but that's the nature of an unpredictable game. We have a young team that should be contenders for a good while.

    From 7-9 last season to 11-5 and North champs this season, it's already been a success imo. I know that first game is going to be tough, especially knowing how easily Seattle dispatched us about a month ago. But this is the playoffs and there are no cupcakes left to play. Who wants to win anything against a pushover anyway? Bring on the Seahawks. They aren't invulnerable, they're just a football team. If we don't measure up come Sunday, so be it. We'll regroup, restock and reload for next year when things will look even better.

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