Three Teams, Two Spots

The NFC playoff picture took a severe mood swing this weekend, as the Bucs and Saints both lost to teams with 10 losses heading into the game. The result? Two playoff spots remain and three teams -- Minnesota, Green Bay and Seattle -- are vying for the spots. Two are in. One is out. Who will be the odd team out? Read on.

VU would like to start today's update with two things -- one important to us and one that should be important to all of us.

First and foremost (non-business related), all of us at VU would like to send our condolences to Brett Favre and his family over the sudden and tragic loss of his father. Regardless of team animosity, most "real" Vikings fans have a respect for Favre that has been earned -- even if reluctantly. He's a Hall of Famer and has played through more than injuries than any other QB in league history. VU Poobah Bob Lurtsema put it in perspective for all of us. Longtime Vikes fans are likely aware that, following the 1975 playoff loss to the Cowboys on the infamous "Hail Mary" pass by Roger Staubach, Vikes QB Fran Tarkenton learned of his father's death by hearing a comment on TV in the Met Stadium parking lot with teammates. As crushing as the loss was, losing one's father makes the game -- even a playoff game -- pale by comparison. As much as the Vikings-Packers rivalry is intense and, at times, ugly, all of us at VU are sending prayers to Favre and his family. We hope you will too.

On a secondary level, we apologize for one of Sunday's updates being deleted on the network. Some of the more important notes will be repeated below if you missed them.

Back to the subject at hand for Vikings fans, a win at Arizona will make things REALLY easy. Beat the Cardinals and the Vikings win the NFC North. Lose and it gets a little more complicated.

As stated earlier, with last weekend's developments, only three teams remain alive for the NFC playoffs (side note: when John Carney is released after this season by the Saints, the Vikings should take a LONG look). Both the Vikings and Packers have beaten the Seahawks head to head, so the Seahawks lose any tie-breaker to start. That is a two-pronged dilemma, however.

If the Packers lose both of their remaining games -- don't look for Denver to put up much of a fight next week -- Seattle is in regardless of how they do Saturday at San Francisco. As the lowest playoff seed, the Seahawks would play the highest of the non-bye week division winners. That likely won't be the Vikings.

However, if Green Bay runs the table and the Vikings beat the Cards, there is the chance the Vikings and Packers could meet at the Metrodome for the first time in postseason competition.

Our question is, how much will those tickets go for?

* Thanks to an Eagles loss to the 49ers Sunday, all that is assured in the NFC is that the Rams have a first-round bye. Other than that, the only other certainty is that the Eagles, Panthers, Cowboys and either the Vikes or Packers will be in. Who plays and who sits is still up for grabs.
* Even if the Vikings lose Sunday, if the Packers lose one their two remaining games, the Vikes win the NFC North. Why? Strength of victory -- the records of the teams you beat. Thanks to the Chiefs, the Vikings would win with a percentage of .481. Losing to either Oakland or Denver would leave the Packers with a lower winning percentage.
* Mike Tice indicated Sunday that whether Michael Bennett is 100 percent or not, Onterrio Smith has earned his chance to be a go-to RB in the team's plans.
* Randy Moss needs just 24 yards Sunday to become the first NFL player to average 100 yards receiving and a touchdown per game in an NFL season. Even though Jerry Rice scored a phenomeal 22 touchdowns in 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season, he didn't average 100 yards a game.
* VU was told Sunday to look for a column in a Twin Cities newspaper blasting Red McCombs. It should be noted that the writer in question wasn't at Saturday's game where he could have seen as strong a Vikings performance as we've seen since the 2000 season. We've been told he'll claim McCombs is the second-worst in Minnesota pro sports history -- behind only Norm Green, who took pro hockey out of Minnesota. Three names should end the discussion (hopefully before it's immortalized in print) -- Calvin Griffith, who had a dynasty if he would have spent money, the 10 owners who were forced to sell out because of a threat from Denny Green and, if there's any doubt, Carl Pohlad. The writer in question has been a baseball beat guy before. Two owners for "contraction" -- suicide, if you will. Pohlad was one of them. Red doesn't even come close.
From the Department of Redundancy Department comes this:

* A lot was made of Moss' wild non-dreadlocks look Saturday. He wasn't alone. A half-dozen Vikings players with dreads let them go -- to look "thuggish" as the story goes. A national TV look at Bryant McKinnie would have been equally interesting -- Don King on a really bad day.
* Moss moved into second place on the Vikings' all-time touchdowns list with 77. He passed Bill Brown (76) and trails only Cris Carter on the team's historical record.
* Brian Russell needs one more interception to tie Paul Krause's franchise record of 10 set in 1975.
* At one point in the second half of Saturday's game, Moss had 106 yards and the Chiefs as a team had 105 yards.
* Onterrio Smith's last two games rushing have been monumental. His 294 yards the last two games are 11 yards short of the franchise record. At No. 1 is Scottie Graham with 305. Next is Bennett, is who ran for 297 vs. the Giants and Packers last year.
* The NFL is likely to take punitive action against the officiating crew headed by Ron Blum over the controversial fumble call on the Chiefs opening drive Saturday. VU has been told that a league official at the game said the play was clearly called wrong because Brian Williams had taken two steps out of bounds before hitting the ball out of Eddie Kennison's grasp.
* In what could be termed a shocking development, the "hugs and kisses" vibe around the Chiefs took an ugly turn when an altercation in the locker room forced it to be shut off from the media -- a big "no-no" in the NFL. Players like Trent Green and Priest Holmes were sent outside the locker room into the corridors to answer media questions.
* Vikings fans gave mock cheers to Leo Araguz for successfully handling his first punt as a Viking. Surprisingly, Tice agreed.

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