Vikings safety Darren Sharper said he believes the victory over the Giants last week will carry over today and give the team confidence in its playoff game against the Eagles. The Vikings lost to Philadelphia 23-16 last season in their last meeting.
"[Confidence] helps you get victories," Sharper said. "We have to find a way to take the football away. We haven't done a good job of that consistently this year. That comes from attacking the football, stripping the ball, as you saw a lot of Philadelphia defenders do against Dallas."
Sharper said he believed the Vikings were a good football team all along, and he knew they had a chance to win the division.
"With our division, we knew that we had a chance if we found a way to win games to keep that record above .500. We knew we'd be in the running for the NFC North title, and it's good that we did do enough to win 10 games and win it," he said. "We were 1-3 and it looked a little bleak, but we knew we still had a chance if we could get on a winning streak like we've done around here these last couple of years."
Sharper and the Vikings said the sellout crowds at home have been a big factor in their success.
"The noise that they create and the excitement they give us, we feed off of that," he said. "We play at a high level, I think, once the crowd is into the game. We definitely know that opposing offenses are thrown off a little bit when they can't hear the snap count and we can see it and get off on the football a lot quicker. It definitely changes the landscape of the game if you can have that crowd noise and make it tougher on the opposing quarterback."
For one thing, the noise is disruptive and gives the Vikings defense an edge in getting to the quarterback. "I think it makes his head ring sometimes when it's that loud; inside your head it can give you a headache," Sharper said. "So, if they're loud enough while he's trying to call his plays, and trying to think about what we're doing on defense, that can make his job a lot tougher."
Sharper will be a free agent after the season, and today's game could be his last for the Vikings. "My philosophy is that every game that you go out, it could be the last game -- you have to approach it like that and go out and play your best, not knowing what the next play or the future could hold," he said. "... I think going out as a winner would definitely make this season."Childress wary
Vikings coach Brad Childress joined the Eagles in 1999 as the quarterbacks coach, the same year that Donovan McNabb joined the team as its first-round draft choice from Syracuse.
Until coming to the Vikings in 2006, Childress was on the staff of Eagles coach Andy Reid. In that time, the Eagles appeared in four consecutive NFC Championship Games, going to one Super Bowl, a loss to the Patriots.
So having coached McNabb for seven years, one would think that Childress would be familiar enough with the veteran's various tendencies that it would help prepare the Vikings for today's game.
"You know, I don't know if it helps you prepare for him or not," Childress said. "Certainly when he does things, looking at him, you almost know what he's going to do. But, I don't know. I think they'll do a great job of game planning and try to break some molds."Transfers help
It was mentioned here that junior college transfers Devron Bostick and Paul Carter hadn't played many minutes for the Gophers in Wednesday's game against Michigan State.
It was a different story on Saturday in the Gophers' victory over Ohio State, with coach Tubby Smith using Carter for 10 minutes and Bostick for 13. Carter scored six points and Bostick added five.
"Bostick came in the game and played well," Smith said. "Carter gave us quality minutes. The bench has been playing well; Jamal [Abu-Shamala] and those guys know that I look at them as equals. Everybody is not the same, but they know that I believe in them as well as I do the guys that are on the court starting."
Smith said that Carter, who had a bad ankle sprain, is getting healthy, and Bostick was feeling a lot more comfortable.
"These guys are not used to coming off the bench," Smith said. "You're talking about a guy [Bostick] who was the player of year at junior college, so he's had to make a big adjustment; not just learn a whole new system, but learn to be ready when he's called on. Both of them are good kids and they fit in well with what we're trying to do."Jottings
Memo to Gov. Tim Pawlenty: With the Eagles in town, it might be a good time to remind you that Tom Ridge was the Pennsylvania governor when the state participated in building four new stadiums -- for the NFL's Eagles and Steelers, and Major League Baseball's Phillies and Pirates. "The Eagles, the Phillies and the Steelers and the Pirates weren't leaving Pennsylvania on our watch," Ridge said at the dedication of the Eagles' new stadium in 2001. The Vikings have only 30 games left on their lease at the Metrodome. ... Add the Broncos to the Rams and the Lions on the list of NFL teams that have asked permission to talk to Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier about their head coaching vacancies. ... Can you believe the Vikings had 20,000 tickets to today's game on Monday and found a way to sell them so it could be televised?
Frazier's son Corey Frazier, the outstanding Eden Prairie cornerback, has committed to Rice after considering Minnesota and Stanford. ... Anders Lee, the Edina quarterback who was named the top Metro Football Player, is going to Notre Dame to play hockey. ... Speaking of recruiting, Taylor Grant, son of Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant, is already being nationally recruited even though he is now a junior.
Pro golfer Tim Herron, a Wayzata native, has launched the Lil' Lumpy Leadership Initiative, which is aimed at teaching kids leadership skills through the game of golf.
Mario Chalmers, whom the Timberwolves selected with the 34th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, then traded to Miami, is averaging 10.1 points per game, the 10th-highest average for rookies, and 4.6 assists, the second-highest total for rookies. Chalmers has started all 31 games for the Heat and is averaging 32.2 minutes.
Eden Prairie High School product Ryan Wittman is still playing terrific basketball for Cornell. The son of former Wolves coach Ryan Wittman leads the Ivy League in scoring at 21.4 points per game. He scored 19 points in the Big Red's 99-45 victory over Division III Ursinus on Saturday.