By the time the Vikings take the field at 3:15 p.m. Central Time next Sunday at Philadelphia, they will likely be either three games behind both the Packers and Bears or two games behind the Packers and four games behind the Bears -- depending on who wins next Sunday's early game when the Packers travel to Chicago.
The importance of that game is two-fold, because the Vikings can't afford to get too far behind either team, and if they have to chase down two teams at the top of the division that fight gets even harder than trying to hope one team falters.
However, if the Vikings don't change things around, that will be a moot point. At 3-4, the Vikings are two games out of a potential playoff spot -- the Bears, Packers, Rams, and 49ers all have five or more wins and Eagles, Giants and Saints all have better records and a chance to all have a direct tie-breaker edge on the Vikings (the Saints already do).
For the Vikings to get back into the playoff hunt, things are going to have to change, especially on offense -- where the Vikings have become something of an embarrassment.
Four times this year, the Vikings have scored 15 points or less. To put that into perspective, in the three previous seasons combined the Vikings scored 15 or fewer points three times in 48 games. Randy Moss has been reduced to a possession receiver and the running game is nonexistent.
What the Vikings needed to get accomplished over the bye week, which officially ends today, is to get the team focused on doing the things they do well. That starts with getting big wins against difficult teams, starting with a tough call on the road to play 4-3 Philly. Following that will be games with the Giants (4-4), Chicago (6-1) and Pittsburgh (5-2). Throw in games with Green Bay (5-2) and Baltimore (5-3) and it's obvious the Vikings have a long road ahead of them. But, the second half of the season for the Vikes begins today and expect to see more changes on offense and defense as the desperation of the situation sets in.
* Being 3-4 after seven games isn't impossible to overcome. Remember that as recently as 1999, the Vikings were 3-4 and finished the season 10-6 and had a halftime lead at eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis. It's going to be a tough road, but the Vikings aren't packing in their season just yet.
* One player who likely won't be available Sunday is Robert Griffith. While the team is hopeful he can play Sunday, VU is being told that he'll likely be held out until the Giants game the following week.
* Where is the big difference on the Vikings offense? As this time last year, Robert Smith was averaging more than 100 yards rushing a game and averaging 5.3 yards a carry. This season, Michael Bennett, Doug Chapman and Travis Prentice are averaging 50 yards a game and just 3.5 yards a carry.
* Randy Moss' production isn't just down on the scoreboard. While he only has two touchdowns, his average per catch is just 13.8 yards, almost five yards a catch less than his career average.
* Daunte Culpepper is team's leading rusher at this point, running for 323 yards and scoring five touchdowns.
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