Vikings Have Chance to Get Back in Race

The Vikings have been claiming that the season still lays in front of them. They could pick up a lot of ground if things finish as they should today.

The Vikings have limped through the first quarter of the 2001 season, losing two games they had no business losing and, instead of being tied for the division lead at 3-1, they're near the bottom at 1-3.

That could change a lot today, as the Vikings remain double-digit favorites over hapless Detroit, one of the NFL's few remaining winless teams.

While the Vikes still have to get their job done, the NFC Central could tighten up considerably by mid-afternoon today. The Tampa Bay Bucs travel to Tennessee, where the Titans are likely one loss away from being out of the playoff picture and a desperate team needing a win at home -- much like the Bucs were last week vs. Green Bay and the Vikings were the previous week vs. Tampa Bay. Throw into the mix the Packers facing the league's best defense in Baltimore and there is a solid chance that the Vikings can head into next week's game with Green Bay reeling from two losses at 3-2 and the Bucs struggling at 2-2.

Sure, the Bucs and Packers could ruin this scenario, but the Vikings are playing today's game with a purpose -- getting back into the race for the NFC Central title...with a little help from their newfound friends.

* Before Vikings fans get too optimistic, it must be mentioned that 10 of the team's 12 remaining games this season come vs. teams that had winning records in 2000.
* The Vikings are 25-5 in games played at the Metrodome since the start of the 1998 season, the most home wins of any team in the NFL.
* Everyone would think that the Lions would be in better shape running the ball with James Stewart than the struggling Vikings. Not so. The Vikings are averaging 84.2 yards rushing a game, three yards better than Detroit's 81-yard-a-game average.
* Baltimore kicker Matt Stover will have a Minnesota tie if he kicks a field goal today vs. Green Bay. One field goal will tie the NFL record of 30 straight games with at least one field goal held by former Viking great Fred Cox.
* Daunte Culpepper has completed passes to seven or more different receivers in each of the Vikings' four games this season.
* Culpepper is on pace to throw for 4,492 yards this season, which would shatter the team record of 4,264 yards set in 1994 by Warren Moon.
* Culpepper is starting his 21st straight game of his career today.
* Randy Moss is looking to finally break out and Detroit could be the team that gets that done for him. In six career games, he has caught 32 passes for 525 yards and six TDs.

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