VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell and Patrick Donnelly of SportsData, and Ted Carlson of TST Media. They are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

Posts about Percy Harvin

VikesCentric: NFL's March madness set to begin

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: February 28, 2013 - 3:39 PM

And we're back! After a brief sabbatical, it's time to once again spew forth opinions, observations and speculation from our little VikesCentric corner of the interweb. A lot has transpired since I last checked in so here are a few quick thoughts on the happenings of the last few weeks before we look ahead:

 
Cris Carter made the Hall of Fame. Finally. Only seven players have ever scored more touchdowns and no player ever displayed better hands. On stats and ability alone he should have received his call to the Hall on the first or second ballot. Mick Tinglehoff deserves to be the next Vikings great to gain enshrinement… more on him in a future VikesCentric post.
 
Adrian Peterson was appropriately honored as NFL MVP and then underwent surgery for a sports hernia, adding yet another exclamation point to the absurdity of his accomplishments. It's not too soon to be talking about him as one of the all-time greatest running backs. He's 4,000 yards (two years?) away from cracking the top-eight all-time rushing leaders. Also, let's put a quick end to the Chris Johnson vs. Adrian Peterson talk before it goes any further. NFL Network and other media types have tried in the last 24 hours to stir the pot on that nonsense again, but it needs to stop. My money is on Peterson rushing for 2,500 yards before Johnson ever approaches 2,000 again.
 
Speaking of Peterson, he went on KFAN last month and said he wants Percy Harvin to remain a Viking. Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman have echoed that sentiment. However, it seems Harvin's bipolar relationship with the team might leave them no choice but to deal him away. They should entertain any offers for Percy that come their way. It's a frightening concept for a team so desperately in need of wide receiver help even with Harvin on the roster. However, the Vikings might be better off with the juicy draft picks a Harvin deal could fetch rather than face the likelihood of a holdout as Percy enters the final year of his rookie deal. Harvin is a remarkable talent. But it's pretty clear he's also a malcontent who has no aspirations of playing for Minnesota any longer than he needs to. Call me crazy, but I doubt a franchise tag following the 2013 season would sit well with him.
 
That brings us to March Madness – not the college basketball, office-bracket mania that is about to grip the country. I'm referring to the NFL version of March Madness. The new NFL business year begins March 12. Before then teams have to be under the league's new salary cap. Hence the recent restructured deals for the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and DeMarcus Ware. There's a chance Jared Allen could do the same and save the Vikes some cap room in 2013.
 
March 12 also marks the beginning of free agency and opens the door for trades to be made. And that's when the fun (a.k.a. "madness") really starts.
 
Vikings fans who thought the team should pursue a trade with the 49ers for quarterback Alex Smith had their dreams crushed Wednesday when it was reported a deal to send Smith to the Chiefs had been agreed upon. Let's face it, this was a purple pipedream. Now that Smith is on his way to Kansas City in a deal that will become official on March 12, it's likely the Chiefs will opt to release Matt Cassel. There's a better chance of the Vikings going after Cassel than there ever was of them being in on the Alex Smith bidding, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm guessing Cassel lands in Arizona. Besides, the Vikings have made it abundantly clear that Christian Ponder is locked in as the starter and any quarterback competition that takes place in Mankato this summer will be for the backup job. That means Joe Webb is probably on the way out. I'm keeping my ear to the ground for any more Matt Flynn rumors. Seattle is going to trade him and they'll probably only get a fourth or fifth-round draft pick in return.
 
Will the Vikings make a run at a free agent wide receiver like Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe or Greg Jennings? Probably not. Spielman is a proponent of building through the draft, not free agency. Thus, I don't expect the Vikings to make a free agency splash. They'll have to pay a lot to hold onto UFA right tackle Phil Loadholt and Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton. Beyond that, Vikings fans shouldn't get their hopes up. Does Steve Breaston do anything for you? How about Devery Henderson?
 
Might the Vikings March Madness have more to do with non-player news? The team picked Mortenson Construction a few weeks ago to build their new stadium and a schematic design is expected in March. The team also tweaked their logo a few weeks ago in what could be a precursor to new uniforms.
 
Could new uniforms be unveiled in concert with the stadium design later this month? Are the new uniforms going to have more of a throwback look than the current design? Will they ever bring back the purple pants for road games on more of a permanent basis? These are important matters and inquiring minds want to know.
 
So I asked the Vikings a few weeks ago about the prospect of new uniforms being announced soon and was told politely told the following by a Vikings spokesperson:
 
"We are continuing to work through some additional exciting changes for the fans, but nothing has been finalized at this point. We’ll have more on that later in the offseason."
 
I don't know about you, but that tells me there's probably something in the hopper on the uniform front. Then again, that might be just wishful thinking.
 
Will the Vikings' version of March Madness be highlighted by stadium and uniform designs? Is Spielman under-playing the team's free agency plans? Vikings fans might want to step away from the copy machine and put down the college hoops brackets long enough to find out.
 
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Assessing the free-agent wide receivers

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: January 9, 2013 - 9:21 AM

Like it or not, the Vikings are committed to Christian Ponder for 2013. They will hopefully bring in a tested veteran to push Ponder, mentor the young quarterback, and provide insurance, but I highly doubt Joe Flacco, Michael Vick, or Alex Smith will be calling Winter Park home.

Instead, Rick Spielman will likely place their No. 1 priority on shoring up and improving the offensive talent around Ponder, and that starts with assessing and upgrading the wide receiver situation. The "assessing" part of the equation is key, as the first step in the Vikings' offseason plan will be to figure out what to do with the enigmatic Percy Harvin. Let him play out the final year of his deal and hope he plays nice? Trade him? Offer a long-term deal?

Harvin's situation requires its own blog post, but his status will obviously impact how the Vikings build the rest of the wide receiver group. Let's assume, as Leslie Frazier asserted earlier this week, that Harvin will be back in 2013. I'd then like to see the Vikings pay Phil Loadholt, pay Jerome Felton, and open up the purse strings for a talented wideout who is ready to step into the starting lineup opposite. Who will be available and a good fit?

(Note: I'm only including known free agents at this point. I'm not going to predict any potential cap casualties such as, for instance, Anquan Boldin.)

A-Level Talent
There will be five top-tier talents available, but I'm going to cross three off the list right away:

Wes Welker, Patriots: The prolific pass-catcher turns 32 this May, duplicates too much of what the Vikings already possess in Harvin and Jarius Wright, and needs to be in a high-volume passing attack. Pass.

Mike Wallace, Steelers: He has grumbled about not getting the ball this season and about the Steelers not throwing deep often enough. I love the explosiveness, but I can't imagine he would entertain joining an offense that lacks a vertical passing attack and requires him to share with Harvin and Adrian Peterson.

Victor Cruz, Giants (RFA): Keep dreaming.

That brings us to…

Greg Jennings, Packers: Vikings fans know his talents all too well, and we seem to get a kick out of signing former rivals. Jennings turns 30 this coming September, and he has broken down in recent seasons, missing eight games in 2012 and three contests in 2011. I have little doubt that he'd look good in Purple, but the price tag could be troublesome. Vincent Jackson, who is turns 30 this month, signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Buccaneers last March. Jennings boasts a better statistical resume but also brings his injury history, so five years and $55 million could be in the ballpark for what he ultimately receives. Would you pay it? It feels steep and risky to me right now, but ask me again in two months.

Dwyane Bowe, Chiefs: The Andy Reid hiring may mean the Chiefs will be more serious about bringing Bowe back, but if he hits the market and if the Vikings are willing to spend big, he would be my top target. Bowe, who is a year younger than Jennings, carries some baggage, but he is also the big-bodied, No. 1-type receiver who makes sense opposite Harvin. And it doesn't hurt that he is accustomed to catching passes from terrible less-than-perfect quarterbacks. We need play-making wideouts who can consistently win 50-50 battles (and instill confidence in Ponder to throw those type of passes) and Bowe will be the best option on the open market.

Second Tier
Brian Hartline, Dolphins: The market for Hartline will be very interesting to watch. If the Dolphins don't re-sign him early, Hartline could linger on the market and either (1) get a ridiculous desperation offer from a team that misses out on Wallace, Jennings or Bowe or (2) end up with a low-end bargain deal. He underwhelmed for three years before exploding for 1,083 yards this season. Nearly one quarter of that total came in one game (253 yards, Week 4), and he managed only one touchdown all season. I don't want the Vikings to be the ones who gamble on his breakout year being for real.

Danny Amendola, Rams: A slot receiver who was only healthy enough to play 12 games over the past two seasons? Where do I sign up?!? Amendola isn't a good fit for the Vikings right now, but I'm already anticipating someone like the Patriots, Broncos or Saints turning a cheap two-year contract into 200 catches over the next two seasons.

Danario Alexander, Chargers (RFA): The Chargers aren't letting him leave.

Other Guys
Donnie Avery, Colts: I'd take him at the same deal the Colts paid him this season (one-year, $615,000), but he is likely to receive a couple million to be some team's No. 3 wideout. I'd be okay with Avery if the price is decent, but I don't think he's an upgrade over...

Jerome Simpson, Vikings: Yep, we're already to that point in the free agent rankings.

Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys: He starred in the Cowboys' season opener (114 yards, two scores) before fading into the background and losing reps to Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. He's worth a look on a cheap one-year deal to replace Devin Aromashodu.

Domenik Hixon, Giants: He's not sexy, but Hixon is one of the mid/lower-level receivers I'd like the Vikings to take a look at. He can be a veteran leader, runs good routes, has shown sticky hands, chips in on special teams, and should be fairly cheap.

Brandon Gibson, Rams: The 25-year-old wideout started 34 games for the Rams over the last three years, but I'll forgive you if you didn't notice. He set career-highs with 51 catches, 691 yards, and five touchdowns this season and received positive marks from both Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. He is another mid/lower-tier guy that I like as long as the price tag is reasonable.

And with that, we've quickly dwindled down to names like Randy Moss, Ramses Barden, Braylon Edwards, Jabar Gaffney, Devery Henderson, and Mohamed Massaquoi - receivers who rabid fans don't dream about in January when trying to dig for difference-making talents. At this point, we're better off turning our attention to the early rounds of the NFL draft, which will be a hot topic for the coming months.

VikesCentric: Playoffs?!? You kidding me? Playoffs?

Posted by: Ted Carlson Updated: December 30, 2012 - 9:22 PM

Four weeks ago, the Vikings hit a low point in their season. The December 2 loss in Green Bay left the Vikings at 6-6, and with four losses over their previous five games, it appeared as though an improbable run from 3-13 to the playoffs was over - just another crushed dream for the Minnesota sports scene.

But a funny thing happened while fans were punching Christian Ponder's ticket out of town, calling for the entire coaching staff to be fired, and wondering what wide receiver the Vikings might target with their top-15 pick... the Purple won their final four games and earned the NFC's sixth seed. Amazing.

How refreshingly wonderful does this feel? Over the last four weeks, the Vikings stepped up, defied odds, exceeded expectations, and ripped off wins over the Bears, Rams, Texans, and Packers. Even the most grumbly, curmudgeonly, passive-aggressive Vikings fan should be all smiles right now.

Sunday's win over the Packers was one of the sweetest victories in my recent memory, especially since I'm one of the many Minnesota sports fans often consuming by the pessimistic belief that our teams are somehow doomed to fail and slap us in the face. Every Aaron Rodgers counter-punch - and there were many in the second half; #12 was brilliant - threatened to end the Vikings' season, but MVP* Adrian Peterson, the much-maligned Ponder, and the entire team took the punishment, got off the canvas, and ultimately delivered the victory.

(*There should be zero doubt across the country that AD is the 2012 MVP. I have nothing against Peyton Manning, but he joined a team that won a playoff game last season thanks to an excellent defense and a strong running game. I can name 5-10 quarterbacks who might have led the 2012 Broncos to the playoffs. Replace Peterson with any other running back in the NFL and the Vikings aren't in the postseason.)

In the biggest game of his young career, Ponder may have secured his space atop the 2013 depth chart. We've all been pining for him to perform exactly like he did on Sunday - work off of Peterson's lead, keep the chains moving, protect the ball, and occasionally step up and make a big play or three. I'm still in shock that the Vikings completed four passes of 20-plus yards in one game, including the 65-yard strike to Jarius Wright**. Through 15 games, the Vikings owned a mere 24 completions of 20-plus yards, by far the worst in the NFL.

(**As an aside, this impressive four-game win streak and push to the playoffs has come without Percy Harvin, the team's MVP during the first half of this season. It will be interesting to see how this plays into what should be an interesting offseason when Percy could receive a contract extension, be traded, or begrudgingly play out his contract.) 

Ponder has deserved every bit of criticism he has received for his poor on-field play this season, and he also deserves praise for improving in recent weeks and for the win over the Packers. No matter what happens in the playoffs, Ponder's recent play should be a confidence boost as he heads into a critical offseason and a make-or-break 2013 campaign.

The Vikings will be heavy underdogs when they head into Lambeau this coming weekend, and frankly, a victory would simply be extra frosting on what currently feels like a pretty sweet and fulfilling season. Then again, the Purple are peaking at the right time with four straight wins and coulda, shoulda won in Green Bay on December 2. Anything can happen in the postseason; just ask the 2005 Steelers or the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings.

But let's start worrying about the playoff game later this week. Take a moment to bask in the fleeting glow of a Minnesota sports team rising to the occasion and delivering a winning performance (and four weeks of winning performances) beyond our expectations.

VikesCentric: Adrian already in rarified air

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: December 11, 2012 - 6:45 PM

With three games to go, Adrian Peterson currently has the 50th-highest single-season rushing total in NFL history, and he continues to climb the list with every run.

 
Peterson has already admitted he's thinking about the record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson of the 1984 Los Angeles Rams. All he needs is 169 yards per game over the final three games to break Dickerson's record – which, when you consider the fact he's averaged 165 over the last five games, seems remarkably within reach.
 
His offensive line, which is also focused on making some history via Peterson, seems eager to do anything it can to help him get there. Listening to center John Sullivan on KFAN Tuesday morning, you'd think they might be more pumped up about getting the record than Peterson.
 
Of course, as they have been doing all season, Peterson and his line will be attempting to make a little history over the next three games against eight and nine-man defensive fronts. That's not going to change regardless of how Christian Ponder performs. The loss of Percy Harvin made the Vikings offense even more one-dimensional than it already was – making Peterson's exploits all the more astounding. In addition, the fact he's doing all this less than a year after having his knee surgically reconstructed is nothing short of unprecedented.
 
Teams know Peterson is going to run. They watch film of his runs and then scheme to stop them, paying comically-little attention to the Vikes' passing game. And yet, all Adrian does is pile up one 100-yard game after another.
 
The superlatives have run out.
 
In an effort to gain some perspective on just how incredible Peterson's run at 2,000 yards has been given the complete and utter lack of a passing threat, I turned to the statistical record and drummed up some pretty compelling data.
 
Below is a list of the 28 seasons in which a player has rushed for 1,700 yards. Yes, I know Peterson is only at 1,600, but I think we can all agree he'll get at least 100 more this year. Besides, I didn't want a list of 50. I have included each player's average yards per carry and, as a means of measuring the help he gets from his team's passing attack, the average yards per pass attempt of each player's team.
 
Keep in mind that Peterson is currently averaging 6.0 yards per carry and Ponder is currently averaging 6.0 yards per pass attempt.
 
Player
Rushing yards
Year
Team
YPC
Team's Passing YPA
Eric Dickerson
2,105
1984
Los Angeles Rams
5.6
6.7
Jamal Lewis
2,066
2003
Baltimore Ravens
5.3
6.1
Barry Sanders
2,053
1997
Detroit Lions
6.1
6.7
Terrell Davis
2,008
1998
Denver Broncos
5.1
7.8
Chris Johnson
2,006
2009
Tennessee Titans
5.6
6.5
O.J. Simpson
2,003
1973
Buffalo Bills
6.0
5.8
Earl Campbell
1,934
1980
Houston Oilers
5.2
7.1
Ahman Green
1,883
2003
Green Bay Packers
5.3
7.1
Barry Sanders
1,883
1994
Detroit Lions
5.7
6.7
Shaun Alexander
1,880
2005
Seattle Seahawks
5.1
7.7
Jim Brown
1,863
1963
Cleveland Browns
6.4
7.6
Tiki Barber
1,860
2005
New York Giants
5.2
6.7
Ricky Williams
1,853
2002
Miami Dolphins
4.8
6.7
Walter Payton
1,852
1977
Chicago Bears
5.5
6.8
Jamal Anderson
1,846
1998
Atlanta Falcons
4.5
8.8
Eric Dickerson
1,821
1986
Los Angeles Rams
4.5
5.9
O.J. Simpson
1,817
1975
Buffalo Bills
5.5
7.5
LaDainian Tomlinson
1,815
2006
San Diego Chargers
5.2
7.3
Eric Dickerson
1,808
1983
Los Angeles Rams
4.6
7.0
Larry Johnson
1,789
2006
Kansas City Chiefs
4.3
7.2
Emmitt Smith
1,773
1995
Dallas Cowboys
4.7
7.6
Adrian Peterson
1,760
2008
Minnesota Vikings
4.8
7.1
Marcus Allen
1,759
1985
Los Angeles Raiders
4.6
6.9
Larry Johnson
1,750
2005
Kansas City Chiefs
5.2
7.9
Terrell Davis
1,750
1997
Denver Broncos
4.7
7.2
Gerald Riggs
1,719
1985
Atlanta Falcons
4.3
6.5
Emmitt Smith
1,713
1992
Dallas Cowboys
4.6
7.3
Edgerrin James
1,709
2000
Indianapolis Colts
4.4
7.7
 
As you can see from the table above, Peterson is already honing in on pretty exclusive company.
 
·         Only three players have ever rushed for 1,700 yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
·         Only three players have ever rushed for 1,700 yards while their team averaged less than 6.5 yards per pass attempt.
·         Most incredibly, only one player (O.J. Simpson in 1973) has ever rushed for 1,700 yards while averaging as many or more yards per carry as his team averaged per pass attempt.
 
In other words, Simpson's 1973 Bills also had no pass threat for opposing defenses to consider.
 
The numbers don't lie. Regardless of whether he breaks the record or even gets to 2,000 yards, if those yards per attempt averages hold up over the course of the next three games, Peterson's season should be regarded as one of the most impressive ever by a running back.
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Looking at the NFL's worst vertical passing attack

Posted by: Ted Carlson Updated: December 1, 2012 - 11:59 AM

Every Vikings fan knows that our passing attack is far, far removed from the "Three Deep" days. It's a rare Sunday that we see Christian Ponder unleashing the type of long pass that makes you shift to the edge of your seat in anticipation of a big gain.

We could argue in circles about the reasons behind the lack of explosive plays in the Vikings passing attack - Ponder's downfield inaccuracy vs. a lack of speedy receivers vs. a lack of receivers who can't catch vs. Bill Musgrave's playbook, which seems to include only one or two routes that go beyond 15 yards. It's a combination of all of the above, which have led to these number: 9.6 and 20.

The Vikings are averaging an NFL-low 9.59 yards per reception.

Who is ranked 31st? The Arizona Cardinals sit at 10.54. Yes, an offense that has seen their quarterback carousel turn to Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and Ryan Lindley manages nearly one full yard per catch more than the Vikings.

The Vikings have completed an NFL-low 20 completions of 20-plus yards.

The Bears (27) and Chiefs (27) are tied for 30th, and it would take a miracle for the Purple to catch them at this point. The 2009 Browns (25) were the last team to finish a full season with fewer than 30 completions of 20-plus yards.

When we stack that 9.6 yards-per-reception average against recent history, we find only four teams who've been more pathetic in the past decade - the 2009 St. Louis Rams (9.5), the 2008 Cincinnati Bengals (8.8), the 2006 Houston Texans (9.2), and the 2003 Detroit Lions (9.4). Let's look briefly look back at those four offenses, where they were, and how they reacted:

The 2003 Lions were led by second-year quarterback Joey Harrington, whose top pass-catchers were running back Shawn Bryson, slot man Az-Zahir Hakim, tight end Mikhael Ricks, and fullback Cory Schlesinger. They were hurt by another Charles Rogers injury (five games played) and a steep fade in production by Bill Schroeder. With the seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft, the Lions selected Texas wide receiver Roy Williams. They also added speedy running back Kevin Jones with the 30th overall pick and signed wide receiver Tai Streets.

The 2006 Texans featured fifth-year starter David Carr, who completed 103 passes to Andre Johnson and 57 passes to aged veteran Eric Moulds. Rookie tight end Owen Daniels (34 catches) was a minor factor, as was Kevin Walter (17 catches). In the 2007 offseason, the Texans ditched Carr and Moulds, made a huge trade with the Falcons to land Matt Schaub, signed speedster Andre Davis, and drafted deep threat Jacoby Jones in the third round.

The 2008 Bengals lost Carson Palmer to an elbow injury after four games and turned the keys over to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was a relatively untested commodity at the time. Chad Johnson punctuated a terrible offseason by changing his last name in August, pouting, playing terribly, and finishing with 53 receptions for 540 yards over 13 games. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught 92 passes but traveled a mere 904 yards. The Bengals had already prepared for the future by selecting Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell in the 2008 draft, but in the 2009 offseason, they also ditched Housh in favor of Laveranues Coles while praying for Palmer's elbow to heal.

The 2009 Rams opened the season with Marc Bulger under center and eventually also used Kyle Boller (four starts) and Keith Null (four starts). Steven Jackson (51) led the team in receptions, followed by raw speedster Donnie Avery (47), rookie Danny Amendola (43), rookie Brandon Gibson (34), and Randy McMichael (34). With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Rams took quarterback Sam Bradford. They also traded for Mark Clayton and Laurent Robinson, selected three pass-catchers in the later rounds of the draft, and gave a shot to undrafted rookie Danario Alexander.

So, what's the lesson here? The Vikings aren't going to cure their lack of a vertical passing game over this final month, but fans can expect Rick Spielman to look far and wide for speedy and big-bodied additions to join Ponder, Percy Harvin, and Kyle Rudolph in the passing attack. We can anticipate waving goodbye to Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, and Devin Aromashodu next offseason, and none of us should shed too many tears.

Some fans are already obsessed with the thought of going over Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, or Dwayne Bowe. I'll leave that discussion for this upcoming offseason, but while we're all dreaming about upgrading this passing attack, it's time to get acquainted with  youngsters the Vikings may be looking at with their first-round pick (currently No. 20).

Currently, there's not a clear-cut, top-10 wide receiver in the 2013 draft class. The college player who best fits that profile - USC's Marquise Lee - is only a sophomore. But the Vikings could be in position to go after Keenan Allen (Cal), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Terrance Williams (Baylor), Robert Woods (USC), or DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson). Tavon Austin (West Virginia) is also in the first-round discussion, but the 5-9, 175-pound speedster isn't the ideal option for a team with Harvin and Jarius Wright.

Rather than ruin my holidays by praying for Simpson to turn into the threat we all hoped he would be, I plan to spend my December dreaming about who might help out this passing attack next year. I suggest my fellow Vikings fans do the same because our current lot of wideouts are what they are and complaining about them will just lead to high blood pressure.

VikesCentric: A must-win game in Chicago

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: November 24, 2012 - 4:55 PM

I generally despise the term "must-win" game.

 
Shouldn't they all be must-wins? I mean, by its very definition, a must-win game implies that some games really don't matter. I suppose that's the case for teams that are out of playoff contention, but in reality all games should be considered must wins as long as a team is mathematically alive for the postseason. After that, some would argue, games can become "must lose" in order to ensure a higher draft pick.
 
Now that we've got that somewhat cleared up… Sunday's game in Chicago feels like it should be considered of the must-win ilk for the Minnesota Vikings. This assumes, of course, that you are in the camp that believes it is in the Vikings' best interest to continue winning games in pursuit of a postseason berth.
 
A cogent argument could be made that the Vikings don't have the horses to go very far – or even advance past the first round – if they do somehow make the playoffs, and therefore losing games down the stretch and missing the postseason wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. That argument presupposes the Vikings are in full-scale rebuilding mode and could benefit more by higher draft picks than a few extra wins during a rebuilding campaign.
 
Of course, that line of thinking won't get you very far within the halls at Winter Park. For as much as they are refurbishing following last season's 3-13 disaster, the Vikings roster is dotted with high-profile veterans that want to win now. For players like Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams time is of the essence. A football player only has so many years to pursue a ring.
 
Thus, the Vikings really, really need to beat the Bears on Sunday.
 
The Vikings remaining schedule – as everyone knows – is pretty dicey, and they need to win four of the final six to have a reasonable shot of making it to the playoffs. Ten wins probably gets them in. Nine probably won't cut it. Next week's game against the Packers in Green Bay does not look very winnable for the Purple. The Packers have won the last four games in the series and have won five of the last six games between these two teams at Lambeau Field. And the Week 16 game in Houston appears even less winnable for the Vikings against a 10-1 Texans squad that appears to be one of the four best teams in the league.
 
In other words, that leaves no room for error in the other four games for Minnesota – two against the Bears, a Week 15 game in St. Louis, and the regular-season finale at home against the Packers.
 
You want to see the Vikings in the playoffs this season? Then they need to win Sunday in Chicago. Period.
 
Fortunately for the Vikes, they have a lot of factors aligning perfectly to give them a shot at upsetting the favored Bears – aside from Percy Harvin's tri-lateral ankle sprain that has yet to fully heal.
 
Not that the Vikings needed a blueprint for beating Chicago, given their familiarity with their division rival, but Monday's lopsided loss by the Bears to the 49ers provided a very detailed roadmap. Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense needs to somehow avoid turning the ball over to the hyper-opportunistic Bears defense and Allen and company need to pin their ears back and pressure the heck out of the quarterback.
 
Said quarterback will likely be Jay Cutler, who appears on course to return from his concussion, but whether it's Cutler or Jason Campbell, the Vikings have a golden opportunity to really get after him. The Bears offensive line is in complete shambles after being exposed for six sacks by the 49ers. Chilo Rachal was demoted from his starting left guard position following the game and promptly left the team. Meanwhile, starting right tackle Gabe Carimi was also benched after the Niners game. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb hasn't been much better, but remains in the starting lineup to take on Allen – who logged 3.5 sacks against him when these teams met last year in Week 17.
 
On paper at least, Allen and Brian Robison should have a field day. On paper, Adrian Peterson should be able to continue his dominance because, well, no one has stopped him yet this season. The Bears run defense is stout, but Peterson is playing the best football of his Hall of Fame career right now. On paper, the well-rested Vikings, who don't have many injury concerns beyond Harvin, have the advantage over the Bears who are on a short week after getting mauled on Monday night.
 
On paper, the Vikings have a really good shot of beating Chicago. And on paper, they really need to do so if they want to remain a relevant playoff contender.
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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