Season Could Turn Today

Last year, the Vikings had a chance to bury the Packers at midseason and failed to get the job done. They have the same opportunity today -- with the NFC North title likely at stake.

During the last few days, both of the head coaches in today's Vikings-Packers game have tried not to define the game as a "must-win." But in reality, how could it be anything but a must-win?

Face the facts. The Vikings are 5-3 and on a two-game losing streak that would be extended to three with a loss at Lambeau Field today. The Packers are 4-4 and on a three-game winning streak that would increase to four games with a home win.

The simple truth of the matter is that a Vikings win would give them a two-game lead over the Packers with a win in hand on the road. A loss and, for the first time all-year, the Packers would have a technical lead on the Vikings – although they would both be 5-4, the Packers would have the head-to-head tiebreaker edge.

While the coaches can downplay it, most fans see today's game for what it is – a must win. A loss for the Vikings won't be the end of the world, but it will make their job a whole lot more difficult and could make winning the NFC North a tall order indeed.

SUNDAY NOTES
* From the "Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire" Department comes this: Bryant McKinnie isn't going to get any breaks this week. Coming off a rough game against Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney, his assignment this week is Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, another pass rusher that will bring the heat from Daunte Culpepper's blind side.
* Of the Vikings five wins this season, the combined record of their opponents is 16-24. The Vikes are currently 0-3 against teams with winning records.
* The Packers are just 1-3 at home and in danger of having a losing home record this year for the first time in the Brett Favre era.
* Favre will be playing in his 200th consecutive game today and his 198th straight start.
* The Vikings have the easiest remaining schedule of the three teams in contention for the NFC North title. Their final eight opponents currently have a combined record of 32-32 – better than that of the Lions remaining opponents (33-31) and the Packers (37-27).

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