The Vikings are 3-6 and need some good fortune to win at least six of their next seven games to either win the NFC North Division or earn a wild-card playoff berth.

But one thing in favor of the Vikings beating the odds to make the playoffs is having a much easier remaining schedule than the Packers and Bears, who are tied for first place in the division at 6-3.

The Vikings have four of their next five games at home, with the lone road tip to Washington on Nov. 28, and likely would be the favorites in those five games. They play the Packers at home Sunday, followed by the Redskins, then home games against the Bills, Giants and Bears.

So the Vikings would be 8-6 if they won all five, and they would have two road games left at Philadelphia and Detroit.

The Packers' remaining schedule has road games against the Vikings, Falcons, Lions and Patriots, and home games against the 49ers, Giants and Bears. The Bears' remaining schedule has road games against the Dolphins, Lions, Vikings and Packers, and home games against the Eagles, Patriots and Jets.

So if you want to be a big optimist, there is still a mathematical chance for the Vikings to get a playoff berth if they get help from Bears and Packers opponents and finish at least 9-7.

Rice wants to play

Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice said if had he been activated, he likely couldn't have played Sunday against the Bears.

Rice, who has been inactive all season after having hip surgery, said the hip acted up a little during his workouts Saturday and Sunday.

"The goal every week is to be on the field, for me," Rice said. "I'm not sure when it's going to be, but I definitely want to be on the field.

"I've played football for 17 years [since he was 7]. I want to continue to play and hope it is this season."

Is this the real scoop?

There were two items on the bottom of pages C7 and C8 of Monday's sports section concerning the Vikings that a lot of readers might have missed.

First, there was the question of whether Vikings coach Brad Childress' job was on the line. A lot of the media speculated that he was going to be fired.

Well, Ed Werder of ESPN was at the Bears-Vikings game Sunday and visited with Zygi Wilf, and the Vikings owner told Werder he was not considering firing Childress.

This wasn't news to me, because I visit quite a bit with Zygi and Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf. And while they didn't want to publicly comment, once they got over being mad at Childress for not notifying them beforehand of his decision to release wide receiver Randy Moss, there was no danger of Childress being fired, although a lot of the media wrote otherwise.

Second of all, there isn't any question that Childress doesn't have a love affair with quarterback Brett Favre and that they disagree at times. It's no secret they have had some heated discussions on the sidelines many times. But I have talked to Favre about this, and his relationship with Childress is a lot like it is between a lot of coaches and quarterbacks.

In an interview last Sunday on ESPN, Favre said: "I think [the conflict] has been blown out of proportion. Brad's a good guy. My dealings offensively are with Darrell Bevell, the offensive coordinator. It's a good relationship. I have no problems with Brad."


The HD telecasts of NFL and Vikings games are so good that the Vikings had about 2,500 no-shows for the Arizona game. However, every remaining game for the season is sold out except for about 600 tickets left for the Buffalo game on Dec. 5.

Twins General Manager Bill Smith's plan is to offer arbitration to the nine players who are eligible. "Yeah, I expect to," Smith said. "As I said we've got nine guys: Matt Capps, [Francisco] Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy, Alexi Casilla, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins and Jason Repko. We've got quite a group." Hardy is a surprise.

Timberwolves 2009 first-round draft pick Ricky Rubio is playing with Regal FC Barcelona in the Spanish Basketball League and the Euroleague. Through seven games in the Spanish ACB League, he is averaging 5.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. In five games in the Euroleague, he is averaging 4.8 points, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

Former Gophers linebacker Sam Maresh wound up being the leading tackler for Iowa Western Community College and helped spark the Reivers to a 9-1 record, the Midwest Conference title and the opportunity to play Snow College (Ephraim, Utah) in the Top of the Mountains Bowl in Salt Lake City on Dec. 4. Marquise Hill, who was recruited by the Gophers but didn't make it academically, has eight touchdown receptions for Iowa Western. Evan Williams, who attended DeLaSalle and played football there, is also at Iowa Western but is being redshirted. Maresh and Hill will be back at Iowa Western next year because under new NCAA rules, they have to graduate from junior college to be eligible at a Division I school.

Former Gophers forward Dan Coleman is off to a solid season playing with JL Bourg Basket in France. Coleman is currently the team's leading scorer at 11.5 points per game, second on the team in rebounding with 5.4 per game and leading the team in minutes per game at 30.3. The team is currently 3-5 in France's Pro-B standings. ... Former Gopher Devron Bostick is averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 29.5 minutes per game with Hasapis Omonia Nicosia in the Cyprus basketball league.

Former Eden Prairie and Cornell standout Ryan Wittman is the second-leading scorer on the Forli basketball team in France at 14.7 points per game. He is also averaging 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while shooting 54.9 percent from the field.

Former Twins starting pitcher Boof Bonser was released outright from the Oakland Athletics and will now become a free agent. Bonser appeared in 13 games for the Athletics last season, going 1-0 with a 5.09 ERA, all in relief.

Former Gophers and Hopkins standout Kris Humphries is having a nice season coming off the bench for the New Jersey Nets. The forward is averaging 6.6 points per game but is also 30-for-43 from the field (69.8 percent) and averaging 6.2 rebounds per game.

Former Chaska pitcher Brad Hand was named one of the Marlins' organization all-stars after a solid season between Class A and Class AA. Hand went 9-8 overall with a 3.31 ERA, but had an impressive 138 strikeouts in 146 2/3 innings pitched. Hand is only 20 years old.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. •