Vikes Can Bury Packers

With a win Sunday, the favored Vikings can all but wrap up the NFC North title.

Back in the heyday of the Purple People Eaters, the Vikings would often have the NFC Central all but wrapped up by midseason. It's almost 30 years since the last time Page, Marshall, Eller et al were terrorizing offenses, but with a win Sunday, the Vikings can all but eliminate the Packers from the division title picture.

The Vikings would improve to 7-1 with a win over Green Bay Sunday, dropping the Packers to 3-5. In the process, the Vikings would earn a series sweep of the Packers, which would give them the first tie-breaker advantage.

The result? Even if Green Bay won all of its games in the second half of the season, if the Vikings would go 4-4, they would win their first NFC North title. If the Packers would go a more realistic 6-2 in the second half, the Vikings would need to win just twice to capture the division title.

The importance of Sunday's game can't be overemphasized. A Packers win and they still trail the Vikings by two games but will be very much alive. A Vikings win and, for all intents, they open a five-game lead with eight games to play. Every player and coach in the locker room for both teams knows the importance of Sunday -- making this game as critical as any since the 2000 NFC title game for the Vikings.

THURSDAY NOTES
* Wednesday came and went without Michael Bennett being activated. But, with a roster spot open due to the release of Jose Cortez earlier in the week, it is not if Bennett will be activated but when. Some are saying today. Others are saying Friday. Everyone is saying soon.
* The only Viking listed on the injury report is LB Raonall Smith, who is listed as doubtful and won't play with a hamstring injury.
* On the Packers' side, nose tackle Rod Walker (knee) didn't practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable. VU has been told by a Packers source, if he doesn't practice today, he'll likely be inactive Sunday.
* Brett Favre threw just a handful of passes Wednesday and isn't likely to increase his workload much today as he tests his bruised throwing thumb. While he's listed as probable and almost sure to play, accuracy could be a huge question mark.
* The Vikings are 30th in the league in kickoff returns, which is why Onterrio Smith will be the third player in three weeks to take over kickoff return duties Sunday night.

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