Mark Craig's Sunday Insider: Any given Sunday rings true

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 24, 2012 - 11:24 PM

Surprising results happen every weekend in the NFL. The Vikings see no reason they can't spring the surprise.

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"Who concerns me in the NFC?" Adrian Peterson says. "No one."

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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It's important to keep one thing in mind when assessing playoff chances for the Vikings or any other NFL team with obvious flaws:

Greatness is not a prerequisite.

If the league's worst team -- Jacksonville -- can score 37 points and take the league's best team -- Houston -- into overtime, the Vikings can turn their bagful of blemishes into a playoff ticket.

If a 7-3 Bears team can lose two straight, get absolutely humiliated on "Monday Night Football" and be forced to bench not one but two offensive linemen, the Vikings can win a key NFC North game at Soldier Field on Sunday.

If the 6-4 Giants can lose two straight and get beat by 18 at Cincinnati; or the 7-3 Packers can keep struggling with a thinning roster; or the 9-1 Falcons can throw five picks in a game, then the 6-4 and shockingly healthy Vikings shouldn't feel outclassed in the NFC.

"You do look around the league and say, 'Why not us?' " Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "Every week is totally different. Every opponent and every game is totally different. The NFC is pretty wide open."

The Vikings have spent the past two weeks spouting one of the oldest clichés in sports.

"We control our own destiny," said running back Adrian Peterson, echoing what every other player has said in every other interview conducted this week.

By its very definition, destiny can't be controlled. But you get the idea. With four of their final six games against NFC North opponents, including the next three, the Vikings don't need any help determining their playoff worthiness.

"Chicago, Green Bay, Chicago," said Peterson, referring to the Vikings' next three opponents. "It's going to be cool to get those knocked out of the way and get some W's on that side of the win-loss column."

Considering the first two are on the road, the Vikings might want to be content with going 1-2. That would at least keep them relevant heading into the final three games.

Then again, if 3-6-1 St. Louis can tie 7-2-1 San Francisco; or 6-4 Seattle can be 1-4 on the road; or 6-4 Tampa Bay can be only a month removed from being 2-4 Tampa Bay, then maybe the Vikings can say, "Hey, why not us?"

"It's cliché to say things like any one of us can beat anyone else," Vikings running back Toby Gerhart said. "But it's still true."

Peterson was asked which NFC team concerns him the most heading down the stretch. He responded like a guy who really doesn't care about his team's 30th-ranked passing attack or its shaky run defense.

"Who concerns me in the NFC? No one," Peterson said. "I'm not worried about anyone. No matter who we play, we have the same opportunity to beat them, and vice versa. I'm just concerned about what we can do to get to the dance."

Don't scoff. With 12 teams invited to "the dance," some of the guests will come armed with two left feet.

A year ago, the Giants staggered into the postseason with seven losses. Were they great? Hardly.

But this is the NFL. Even flawed teams win Super Bowls if they pick the right three weeks to get hotter than everyone else.

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