Coronation Or Losing Streak?

Today will mark the midway point of the 2003 season when the Vikings meet the Packers, but, in the 25th game as a head football coach, this is clearly the biggest game of Mike Tice's career.

The networks love to hype as many games as possible as live or die games, but tonight's game between the Vikings and Packers has just those implications. With a win, the Vikings are all but coronated as division champions. With a loss, the title race, while still in the Vikings control, is back up in the air.

If the Vikings win tonight, they will improve to 7-1, while Green Bay drops to 3-5. With a head-to-head tie-breaker edge, even if the Packers went 8-0 the second half of the season, the Vikings would win the division with a 4-4 finish. Under a more likely scenario where Green Bay would go 6-2, the Vikings would have to win just two of their final eight games to win the division.

A Vikings loss would mean that the Packers would be within two games with eight to play and all head-to-head tie-breaker advantages would be gone.

It's only the midway point of the season, but the Vikings and Packers both have their destinies in their hands tonight.

* A football publication of USA Today rated all 32 teams by strengths on offense, defense, coaching and even attitude. The No. 1 team in the NFL according to its survey? The Vikings.
* The Packers are currently rated No. 30 in defense after being pummeled by the Rams and Chiefs. Despite a week off for the Packers, look for the Vikings to try to use the same formula that worked for the others in trying to beat the Pack.

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