Vikings in Head Scratcher Race
With the Vikings and Bears both at six wins and five losses, and the
Packers five and five, the NFC North Division race is nearly parity
perfect. The Packers will play in New Orleans tonight and after that
all three teams have five remaining games each to determine a division
champion and receive a “ticket” to the playoffs.
Which team will be at the top of the division when the final games are
played on December 28? Three Vikings expressed different views to
Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell is in his 12th
NFL season, three here and nine before that with the Packers. “Well, I
think the thing you see every year I’ve been in the NFL--bar none--the
thing you see come playoff time is the hottest team gets in and the
hottest team advances,” Longwell said. “…There’s going to be a team out
of the three of us that’s going to get hot and hopefully we are that
team. …I think that’s the key to separate yourself from this pack in
So are any of the three contending teams on winning streaks now? Well,
not really. The Bears, Vikings and
Packers are all on one game winning streaks.
Vikings offensive tackle Marcus Johnson has only been in the
league since 2005 but has seen enough to know about attrition. Asked
what will determine the division champion, Johnson said: “I would say
health. Guys being able to stay in there and sustain. …Being that it’s
getting late in the year and guys are worn out and beat up and
everything. So I think the healthier team has the best chance.”
Wide receiver Robert Ferguson, a former Packer like Longwell and
eight year NFL veteran, speculates that the running game will be the
determining factor. “First of all, I’ve experienced this on numerous
occasions with the NFC North,” he said. “Seems like every other year is
this type of situation with the NFC North.
“The teams are fairly level, fairly equal so I think it’s going to be
the team that can run the ball in the bad weather and prevent the
turnovers. So the team that will be left standing will be the team that
has their running game going. It will always come down to that running
game in November and December. …”
Ferguson didn’t reference the remaining schedules of the division
contending teams but if his theory is correct then the Vikings should
have an advantage. The Purple’s remaining road games, at Detroit and
Arizona, will both be played in domed stadiums, just like the Metrodome.
The Bears and Packers, though, will be mostly outdoors, possibly
playing in freezing or sloppy winter weather. The Bears have three
outdoor home games, plus trips to Minneapolis and Houston. The Packers
also have three outdoor home games remaining, plus trips to Chicago and
Hard to say which team has the easiest remaining schedule. All three
teams play two more NFC North games but the Packers and Vikings have one
of those games against the winless Lions.
The Packers might have the best combination of talent and coaching to
repeat as champions. They’ve got plenty of experience, too, competing in the late season elements at legendary Lambeau Field, too.
a comforting thought if the Vikings are in the playoffs and exposed to a
wintry field. Ferguson thinks Adrian
Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher, is special on a bad surface,
too. “We call him All Day but he’s All Weather Guy,"
Ferguson said. "It doesn’t matter
if it’s raining, snowing or whatever. I think his speed does not falter
at all. That’s one of his strengths. He’s All Terrain
Guy. It doesn’t
matter with him.”