Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vikings vs. Bears -- Sorta-hafta-win game

Big showdown with the Bears Sunday night...with a win, the Vikings would be 7-5 with a one-game lead in the division and only Detroit remaining on the divisional schedule. If we assume the Vikings beat Detroit next week (even if the Williams boys are suspended), then they'd be looking at an 8-5 record, 4-2 in the division, and a surprisingly good chance of winning the division, even with a slip down the stretch during that tough December schedule.

If the Vikings lose the game, however, that pretty much ends their division-title chances for the year and puts a serious crimp in their overall playoff plan. At 6-6, the Vikings would be essentially two games behind the 7-5 Bears, who would have swept the Vikings for the season. With at least three other +.500 teams in the NFC that aren't leading their divisions, that would put the Vikings at least in fourth place in competition for two wild-card spots. Not good.

So while I loathe the term "must win" (If the Vikings lose this week, everyone will say that next week's game is a "must win" to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, and so on, and so on, every week until they're actually eliminated from playoff contention. If you can lose a "must win" game and still stay alive, then guess what? It wasn't a "must win"!), this game is pretty close. Fortunately, it's at home, where the Vikings are 4-1 this season, and while the Bears are 3-3 on the road, two of those road wins came against Detroit and St. Louis. All signs would seem to point to a Vikings victory, but you know how that usually goes with this team. Here's hoping for another 14-0 lead in the first two minutes!

* Probably the most cringe-inducing moments in Sunday night's game will come when the Vikings punt to Devin Hester. Interestingly, though, Hester's averaging just a mediocre 6.3 yards per punt return, and has actually been taking off kickoff returns. Nevertheless, expect every announcer and every fan in the Metrodome to expect Chris Kluwe to kick away from Hester, regardless of how effective he actually is.

* The blog recently had a post about unique game scores in the NFL, prompted by that 11-10 Pittsburgh/San Diego game a few weeks ago, and in the process introduced a bunch of neat new toys for finding game scores. Read the post to get all the links, but, for instance, here's the list of all 30-12 games in NFL history, including last week's Vikings/Jaguars game. (That Chicago Bears/Pottsville Maroons game in 1927 was a real barnburner!) Specifically, as it relates to the Bears/Vikings, their earlier 48-41 contest was the first in NFL history with such a score.

My favorite "WTF?" score has to be 5-0, which has occurred three times, including twice in fairly recent times. And then there's this 7-2 gem from 1993, the third of its kind, appropriately between two teams with a combined record of 3-23.

* Another possibility for the Vikings' 2009 QB I hadn't considered: Tim Tebow. Granted, he'll have to declare for the draft and he'd have to slip to the Vikings' pick, but after the Brady Quinn incident in the 2007 draft, anything's possible.

And count me as someone who's not interested. I think Tebow, like Alex Smith in Utah, is a product of Urban Meyer's spread offense and think it unlikely that he'll be even remotely as good in the pros as he is in college. Might be that he could be successful as a part-time QB/part-time WR/slash/Wildcat type of player, but until an NFL player with quarterbacking skills officially declares himself to be that type of player, as opposed to a full-time QB, I don't see it happening.

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