The 2011 Vikings are trying to avoid being tied for the worst team in franchise history. The current players don't want to hear about a better draft pick being on the line.
The Vikings come into Sunday's game with the Chicago Bears
as a one-point favorite, which speaks volumes to the standing of the Cutler-less Bears. But the conundrum Vikings fans faced a week ago is twice as bad this time around.
Vikings players find it hard to understand why they would tank games to get the best possible draft pick. The 2011 Vikings want no connection to the 1984 Vikings. Had those two teams played in December, the 2011 Vikings would have been favored by 17 points over the 1984 Vikings, covered that spread by halftime and, ironically, would have increased that lead in the second half.
The Vikings want to beat a Bears team that has gotten progressively worse in recent weeks to end the season on a high note – even at the expense of a blue-chip draft pick that could be used as trade bait to stockpile picks in the event the Vikings want to go that route.
If the Vikings lose, they are almost guaranteed the No. 3 pick in the draft. The Colts have a worse opponent record and there is little chance the Rams beat the 49ers with a first-round playoff bye at stake. If the Vikings win, however, things could interesting – not good interesting, but interesting nonetheless.
As it stands, with a Vikings win, they could fall all the way down to the sixth pick in the draft, thanks to facing the toughest schedule – seven of their first 14 games were against 2011 playoff teams. While the rationale makes sense to reward teams that play more bad opponents than those that faced a more difficult schedule, the Vikings dropping into the sixth pick isn't that far from reality.
There are three teams in the NFL currently sitting at 4-11. One of them is Cleveland, which is playing host to Pittsburgh – all but guaranteed to be a loss. The Browns have lost their last five and eight of their last nine, making the projection of a loss against a team with a record of 11-4 even more probable.
The second is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They sit at 4-11, but started the season at 4-2. What? That's right. They have lost nine straight with the last eight by totals of 11, 28, nine, six, 19, 27, 16 and 32 points. They're on the road at Atlanta, where the point spread should be 24 or more.
The other team at 4-11 is Jacksonville. The Jags should be favored at home against 2-13 Indianapolis, but the Colts have won their last two games while the Jags have won two of their last eight games. To say Jacksonville is far from a sure thing is understating the case. The Jags are more likely to lose this one than win.
There is every reason to believe that the three teams at 4-11 are going to lose today. Will the Vikings join them at 4-12? Most fans hope they win, but if they do, in the matter of two weeks, they went from being in contention for the No. 1 draft pick to potentially dropping all the way to the sixth pick.
In the long run, it might be better for the Vikings to lose today's game. But don't tell them that … at least not to their faces.
VIKINGS-BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 18th-ranked offense (4th rushing, 28th passing) and the 25th-ranked defense (12th rushing, 29th passing). Chicago has the 20th-ranked offense (8th rushing, 26th passing) and the 18th-ranked defense (6th rushing, 28th passing).
The Vikings are averaging 332 yards a game (182 passing, 150 rushing). The Bears are averaging 321 yards a game (193 passing, 128 rushing).
Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 368 yards a game (260 passing, 108 rushing). The Bears are allowing 354 yards a game (256 passing, 98 rushing).
The Vikings are fourth in rushing yards per game, but second in average per rushing attempt (5.32 yards). They trail only Carolina, which is averaging 5.33 yards per rush.
The Vikings have allowed 47 sacks, 29th in the league in terms of sacks per pass attempts. The Bears have allowed 42 sacks, which ranks 27th in the league.
The Vikings are second in the league in kick return average (26.9 yards per return).
The Vikings have just seven interceptions, which is last in the league. In terms of interceptions per pass play, the Vikings are 31st – ahead of only New Orleans.
The Bears have thrown 19 interceptions, which ranks 29th in the league in picks per pass play.
The Vikings have allowed 432 points. Only Tampa Bay (449) has allowed more.
The Vikings are 11th in third-down conversions on offense, making good on 80 of 201 opportunities (39.8 percent). Chicago is 27th, converting just 61 of 190 third-down chances (32.1 percent). The league average is 37.9 percent.
Defensively, the Vikings are 30th on third down, allowing conversions on 44.6 percent of opponent opportunities (87 of 195). The Bears are 15th, allowing conversions on 77 of 214 chances (36 percent).
Minnesota is tied for 19th in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-3 (20 takeaways, 23 giveaways). Chicago is tied for 13th at plus-2 (28 takeaways, 26 giveaways).
The Vikings are seventh in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 29 of 41 drives (58 percent). The Bears are 11th, scoring touchdowns on 20 of 37 possessions (54.1 percent).
The Vikings defense is 16th in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 29 of 55 possessions (52.7 percent). Chicago is seventh in the red zone defensively, allowing touchdowns on 24 of 53 possessions (45.3 percent).
Jared Allen leads the NFL with 18.5 sacks. He is a half-sack ahead of DeMarcus Ware of Dallas and Jason Babin of Philadelphia heading into the final week of the season.
Allen is 2.5 sacks behind the Vikings' all-time single-season record of 21 held by Chris Doleman and four short of the all-time record of 22.5 by Michael Strahan.
The teams have combined to have just three 300-yard passing games, two from injured Chicago QB Jay Cutler and one from Christian Ponder. Both the Bears and Vikings have allowed four 300-yard passers this season.
Both teams have had just two 100-yard receiving games and only one of the players to accomplish it will be playing today. The Vikings' two have come from Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins, while the Bears two have been supplied by injured Matt Forte and Johnny Knox.
The Vikings have allowed seven 100-yard receivers, while the Bears have allowed six.
The Vikings have had five 100-yard rushers – Adrian Peterson three times, and Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart once each. The Bears have six, four from Forte and one each from Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell.
With 997 yards rushing before he went down to injury, Forte still ranks 15th in the league in rushing. Peterson finished with 970 yards, which currently ranks him 17th in the league.
Peterson remains third in the league in rushing touchdowns, despite missing four full games due to his two injuries. LeSean McCoy leads the league with 17 and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is second with 14 rushing TDs.
Harvin is tied for eighth in the league in receptions with 77.
Harvin is 31st in receiving yards with 852.
Peterson remains tied for fifth in scoring among non-kickers with 78 points. Harvin is tied for 26th with 48 points (eight TDs).
Harvin and Darren Sproles are the only players in the league with touchdowns rushing, receiving and on kick returns.
Say what you want about the NFL being a passing game. When it comes to dominant scorers, it's still the running game that turns drives into touchdowns. Through 15 weeks, there are seven players with 10 or more rushing touchdowns. Despite their far greater numbers, there are only four players with 10 or more receiving touchdowns – and two of them are tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham).
Chicago's Robbie Gould is tied for 10th in scoring among kickers with 116 points. Ryan Longwell is tied for 21st with 97 points.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.