Chicken Little...You Have A Phone Call

You would think from the tone of the local Twin Cities media that the Vikings are 2-10 after 12 games of the 2003 season. Instead, they're 7-5 and in control of the rest of their season. Go figure.

To understand the beat writers that cover the Vikings, you would need to be around them for a sustained period of time. The worst time many of them had was in 1998 when Denny Green -- a reviled figure in most of their terms -- put together one of the greatest seasons in NFL history.

This isn't 1998 and Denny Green is a ghost -- except to Red McCombs, who is cutting his final check for his services. But, you would think the Vikings are the defending Super Bowl champs by the way the local media is treating their fall from the perch of the NFL elite. Oh, wait. The defending champs are 5-7. The Vikes are 7-5. Hmm.

If asked before the season began, any honest Twin Cities beat writer would have picked the Vikes at 8-8 or 9-7 at best. We did. We were being optimistic. Yet, if you were to read the local media accounts, the Vikings stink. They don't belong in the playoffs. Oh, wait. They were supposed to be 7-9, which wouldn't be in the playoffs anyway, right?

Granted, after a 6-0 start, a 1-5 "since then" record is awful. Pick your word -- deplorable, unacceptable, embarrassing. Fine. Still, as we count down the days until Christmas, the Vikes are in control of the NFC North and there's nothing Green Bay can do about it. But, the Denny-haters of yesteryear are back with a vengeance.

In Baltimore, where Brian Billick gets his mail, the fans are ecstatic to be 7-5 and fighting out with the vaunted Bengals. In Minnesota, a one-game lead over the Packers means nothing -- according to the "experts" in the Minnesota media.

A six-game winning streak at any time of the season puts you in position to make the playoffs. The Vikings have that. Seeing that they won 11 games the previous two years combined, you should be happy.

The sky isn't falling, Chicken Little. It's just a lot grayer than it used to be. Deal with it. A win Sunday and, more importantly, a win next week vs. the Bears and there's nothing the Packers can do to prevent the Vikes from going to the playoffs. Isn't that what we want? Once in the playoffs, bring on Dallas and Carolina and Philadelphia -- and their frightening offenses.

* Chris Claiborne is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday, but that doesn't mean that Nick Rogers heads back to the bench. VU has been told Rogers will start Sunday, but this time taking the place of Henri Crockett.
* As if the linebacker position isn't muddled enough, look for E.J. Henderson to see more time at middle linebacker as the team phases out Greg Biekert. If the game is on the line, Biekert will be in, but Mike Tice is looking to the future and Henderson will be the starting MLB next year and he's getting groomed now. Biekert, while not completely happy with the plan, is understanding -- from what we're hearing.
* Nick Davis, who missed much of the season with a shoulder injury, was released Tuesday. He has been replaced on the 53-man roster by LB Max Yates.
* Yates' spot on the practice squad is expected to be filled by CB Horace Willis.

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