There's no question the Vikings would be in an even worse position than 5-4 if it weren't for the play of their two top offensive stars, running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Percy Harvin.
But it's interesting to look back at how risky both of those players seemed as draft picks when each was selected by the Vikings.
Both were considered among the best athletes in their respective draft classes, but concerns regarding their durability left them falling to the Vikings.
But looking at it now, with Peterson leading the league in rushing with 957 yards and Harvin leading the league in receptions with 62, it's clear that the Vikings and then-coach Brad Childress, in taking a risk on these two players, made two of the best selections in franchise history.
Peterson was considered one of the best players in the nation at Oklahoma. But he had suffered a dislocated shoulder in his freshman season, a high ankle sprain during his sophomore campaign and a broken collarbone his junior year -- he started 22 out of 31 possible games for the Sooners.
Analysts had him as one of the top three prospects in the draft, so it was somewhat surprising he was still available at No. 7 when the Vikings took him. The Vikings had Calvin Johnson and Peterson as the No. 1 and 2 players on their draft board.
But if you want to recall some of the players taken before Peterson, there were JaMarcus Russell, Levi Brown and LaRon Landry, all of whom teams considered less of a risk than the great running back.
After selecting Peterson, Childress was asked how the team weighed his injuries vs. his talent:
"I think he feels pretty good," Childress said. "You let your doctor determine that. You let the orthopedic guys get another look at him. [But] it's not like we haven't looked at him already. We're satisfied with him right now.
"We knew we needed explosive players on the offensive side of the football. And we got one of the best today."
Vikings did homework on Harvin
Two years later, Harvin was coming off a tremendous three-year career at Florida when the Vikings took him 22nd overall in the 2009 draft. He had grabbed 133 receptions for 1,929 yards, rushed for 1,852 yards and had a total of 32 touchdowns for the Gators.
But he also had tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine before the draft and had dealt with a severe ankle sprain and hairline fracture in his right leg late in his junior season.
Before selecting Harvin, Childress flew down to Florida to meet with the receiver just days before the draft. There was a lot of concern in those days with Vikings players being of good character.
Still, several teams backed away from Harvin, which is why he was available to the Vikings so late in the draft. It's amazing to think now that he was the fourth receiver taken overall. The three taken before him: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. None of those has come close to Harvin's all-around production.
After the draft, owner Zygi Wilf said, "We feel that the players on our team can work with Harvin and there won't be any problems." And outside of some medical problems outside of his control, Harvin has never been anything but a hard-working and dynamic star for the club.
In their first season together Harvin and Peterson reached the NFC Championship Game, but the Vikings have posted a 44-45 record overall since Peterson joined the club in 2007 and are 26-31 since Harvin joined in 2009. Still, as the team tries to rebuild, those two stars continue to prove that they were well worth taking a chance on.
The Gophers will go to their first bowl game since 2009 after beating Illinois for Jerry Kill's first Big Ten road victory as coach. Kill credited the 17-3 victory to the fact that the team didn't turn the ball over.
On the other hand, Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase fumbled with 2 minutes, 31 seconds left on a hit by Gophers linebacker Mike Rallis. The Illini had the ball on their own 31 with an opportunity to tie the score, but following the turnover, Donnell Kirkwood scored his second touchdown of the game to put the victory away.
Of the offense's 309 yards, Kirkwood ran for 153 and freshman Rodrick Williams for 55. The Gophers had 14 of their 18 first downs come from rushing.
Passing-wise, the Gophers struggled with Philip Nelson going only 9-for-15 with 78 yards.
The young offensive line did a great job. Unfortunately, junior Zach Mottla, who replaced Jon Christenson early in the game, was seriously injured and carted off.
The Gophers can still improve their bowl status through their remaining conference games, at Nebraska and at home against Michigan State. But regardless, the young squad will get the 15 extra days of practice that will be so important to their future.
• Adrian Peterson on the Vikings' game with Detroit: "It's divisional games, and the ball really starts rolling. It's about how bad we want it. It's coming up in the second half and we're about to see how bad we really want this thing."
• Making a correction to something I reported last week: The Vikings Children Fund has given more than $10 million away over the life of the program, not over the past year. More than half of that money has benefitted the pediatric program at the University of Minnesota.
• Marc Trestman continues to build winning teams as coach of the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, who are 11-7 this year and have a first-round bye in the playoffs as they try to win another Grey Cup. In five seasons, St. Louis Park's Trestman has coached Montreal to two CFL titles and four first-place finishes in the East Division.
• Former Gophers player and Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders has signed a multiyear contract with ESPN to do commentary on various programs.
• Former Gophers and Twins catcher Terry Steinbach on his decision to accept a position as a Twins coach: "It's kind of been something that I've always had an interest in. I was still going down to spring training with the Twins, 10 days, two weeks at a time. Something I hoped would come about once our kids graduated from high school. My youngest graduated last year, and we were kind of open to it and the situation came about obviously with the coaching turnovers that they had on the staff. The opportunity presented itself and Mary and I are extremely excited about the opportunity."
• Mario Lucia, son of Gophers men's hockey coach Don, is still rehabilitating from a broken left leg suffered in August, and the Wild second-round draft pick has yet to play in a game for Notre Dame.