Thursday night’s football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears was the second-most watched NBC primetime game ever as nearly 28 million viewers tuned in after finishing their Thanksgiving dinner. Among those millions of viewers were fans of the Minnesota Vikings, most of them tuning in to cheer on the Bears.
It’s not too often that fans will cheer for a division rival, but the Vikings needed the Packers to lose to help their own cause.
Prior to Thursday night’s game, the Vikings and Packers were tied atop the NFC North with a 7-3 record, but the Packers had the tie-breaking advantage after beating the Vikings the week prior. That’s why Vikings nation was hoping the Bears could pull off the upset and give them sole possession of first place once again.
Players were watching intently, too.
“I was sitting there watching the game – the first two games were horrible, but that was a good way to end the night – a Green Bay loss and move back into first place,” said Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. “It makes you just lock in and focus.
“I sent a Thanksgiving tweet out and at the end I was like, ‘Go Bears!’ They pulled it out so that was good for us.”
With the Bears winning on Thursday, the Vikings now have a half-game lead over the Packers as Minnesota still has to play on Sunday. Most players on the team are happy to be back on top of the division, but at the same time they all realize that there are still more important things for them to focus on.
They play the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday and winning that game is their first priority. If they do that, they will have a full-game lead over the Packers and if they lose to the Falcons then they will once again be tied atop the division.
“I think you see it, but I think at the end of the day it’s not about what they do, it’s about what we do,” Brian Robison said when asked if he pays attention to what the Packers do. “If we go out and we win ballgames then we don’t have to rely on someone else winning or losing games. So what we have to do is just go out week after week and just try to win ballgames.”
That attitude is one that a lot of players throughout the locker room have and it stems from their head coach. Mike Zimmer never likes to look ahead or rely on other teams for help. Instead, he tries to stay focused on the team’s next game and that’s the way he wants his players to think.
“We’re just worrying about Atlanta,” Zimmer said, “we don’t care about any of that stuff.”
But at 7-3 and with a chance to increase their lead over the Packers, the Vikings are currently in control of their own destiny. There is still a lot of football to be played, but where things sit right now the Vikings are in a good position to make the postseason.
“Kind of like Zim was saying the last couple weeks, it doesn’t matter right now,” safety Harrison Smith said. “It’s obviously a good place to be, but it doesn’t matter unless we take care of business.”