Vikings beat writer Dan Wiederer conducts a Live Chat on Tuesday at startribune.com. Here are edited excerpts from this week's session.
Q Can Jared Allen abuse the Chicago offensive line the way Aldon Smith of the 49ers did Monday?
A Allen had 3.5 sacks in the finale last year against the Bears. Of course, that came in a meaningless game where he was gunning for the single-season sack record from the very first snap. Still, Chicago's tackle play has been lousy. And opposing defenses have been in the Bears backfield all year.
Q I still don't understand why it's unfathomable to remove Christian Ponder from a game if his play warrants it. It doesn't mean that he doesn't start the next game, but that the Vikings want to win the game. Is that so wrong?
A Understanding the dynamics of the modern NFL, it also opens up a whole big potential controversy with the tension it creates. Plus, this season, I only saw one game where I thought it might have benefited Ponder and the Vikings to have him sit for a bit. At Seattle. But again, the Vikings coaches believe that part of Ponder's ongoing growth is enduring some of the struggles. So they want him to have to battle through those at times.
Q Did Mistral Raymond play well enough in his first game back from injury to win back his starting safety job?
A Jamarca Sanford started the past seven games at the second safety spot across from Harrison Smith. But now with Raymond back in the mix, it will soon be his starting job again. What stands in the way? Conditioning, and knocking away a little rust and hesitance on the ankle that was hurt.
Q What are the odds Percy Harvin is ready Sunday, and will Jarius Wright be active as well?
A Even if Harvin is ready, I'd think you'd have to keep Wright active as insurance. There's no saying that Percy doesn't start and aggravate that ankle problem. So it'd be nice to have a Plan B.
Q How is cornerback Josh Robinson doing? Does the team feel he can be an adequate replacement for Chris Cook by the end of the year, or will he remain in a nickel/backup role?
A I think big picture they envision him in a nickel role this season and eventually transitioning into starting for Antoine Winfield when he finally decides to hang it up. But the way Winfield is playing this season, I'd be surprised if he called 2012 the end. Robinson's a mentally tough kid and can compensate for some of his mistakes with his speed.
Q Will 9-7 make the dance? Doesn't help that the Vikings lost to Seattle and Tampa Bay.
A 9-7 will not make the playoffs if you're the Vikings. There's a chance that Seattle and Tampa Bay would be in that same mix for the wild card. In fact, if the playoffs started today, the Vikings would be one of three 6-4 teams vying for the last wild card spot. But because they lost to both of those other 6-4 teams, they are instantly eliminated.
Q Minnesota had a bye week to get healthy and rested. Meanwhile, the Bears have short rest and are suffering a two-game losing streak. Could there possibly be a better time for the Vikings to play the Bears?
A The only better time to play them was Monday night. When they had to travel across the country and play without their starting QB. So the Vikings would be in a better position if this was a home game with Jay Cutler definitely out. But the Bears are wounded right now.
Q Will the Vikings stick with Letroy Guion at nose tackle next season given how mediocre his play has been to date ?
A They gave Guion a pretty nice deal last March. Three years. And they believe he can make an impact, even though he's not the size of a typical nose. He's been pretty solid at points this season. The hope is he continues to develop and, just as importantly, stays healthy.
Q Does the bye week help or hurt more?
A When your star receiver has a sprained ankle and your star running back has ankle soreness of his own and you've already halted a losing streak with a pretty rejuvenating effort against Detroit, the bye week is a big help. I think it did far more good than bad for the Vikings in setting the stage for a meaningful stretch run.
The Live Chat is every Tuesday at noon. Read it in full at startribune.com/vikings.