RUN, T-JACK, RUN. FINALLY!
1 Is it me, or was Sunday the first time Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson looked determined to make a difference? Maybe it was the fact he FINALLY put his feet to good use and ran the ball consistently. The two most encouraging aspects of Jackson's day were: 1, Looking off the safety before hitting Sidney Rice with a 60-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game; and 2, Running the ball five times for a career-high 38 yards. For those of us who thought the time was NOW for T-Jack to show us something positive against a good team, the kid did just that in the Vikings' 41-17 victory at Giants Stadium. Hats off. Here's hoping he keeps running the ball. Coach Brad Childress likes the added dimension that it brings, but he also wants Jackson to be "a thrower first."I don't want him just pulling it down willy-nilly and taking off with it because he thinks he can outjuke everybody," Childress said. Did he really say "willy-nilly"?
WILD CARD, HOMEBOY!
2 There's something cheesy about so many 5-6 teams -- and their giddy owners -- feeling so good about themselves. But, hey, welcome to the NFC, where six 5-6 teams know they're only one game behind the free-falling Detroit Lions (6-5) for the second wild-card berth. On paper -- which is a ridiculous place to judge the NFL, by the way -- the Vikings appear to be the most well-positioned 5-6 team. Here are the strength of schedules for those six teams over the final five weeks: Vikings and Cardinals (both .436, 24-31); Saints (.455, 25-30); Redskins and Bears (both .582, 32-23); and Eagles (.618, 34-21). The Vikings and Cardinals each have two road games remaining. The Cardinals have the tougher road schedule, going to Seattle (7-4) and Atlanta (3-8). The Vikings visit two teams with losing records, the 49ers (3-8) and Broncos (5-6). Plus, the Vikings are the only one of the NFC's 5-6 teams to play the Lions down the stretch (Sunday at home). The Vikings also are the only team among the six to have a current winning streak (two games).
CHILLY JUST LIKE BILLY -- THROUGH 27 GAMES
3 Vikings coach Brad Childress still needs to find his Tom Brady, win three Super Bowls and make a run at a 19-0 season. But so far, through his first 27 games as an NFL head coach, Childress is right where Bill Belichick was: 11-16. Belichick was 6-10 with the Browns in 1991. Back then, the AFC was the weaker conference, so Belichick was still in the playoff hunt when a loss to the Vikings at the Metrodome dropped Cleveland to 5-6 in 1992. The Browns finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs that year. (P.S. This, by the way, is why I now resist the urge to say anyone who struggles early on as a head coach has no chance of succeeding.)