Must-Win Already?

Are the Vikings done or ready to make their move? The talking heads have let their views be known (ad nauseum). Now it's time for the 2004 Vikings to eliminate talk of 2003.

Few teams have been more overanalyzed the last couple of weeks as the Vikings. In an era that reality shows saturate what remains of free TV as we know it, the NFL remains (although never officially acknowledged) the top-rated reality show on TV.

The NFL, like the major television networks, use November to separate the wheat from the chaff and point the direction where the current whiff of public sentiment is heading.

Thusfar, November sweeps have been much kinder to the AFC – where a 6-3 record leaves two teams out of the playoffs. In the NFC, it's a far different story. Teams at 3-6 can still make a legitimate claim to playoff aspirations. It's a good time to be 5-4 in the NFC.

The Vikings find themselves facing a critical juncture in franchise history today. As much as the team has improved its approach to the draft and opted to spend in outside free agency, the persisting sentiment is that the Vikes of 2004 are going to mirror the team of 2003. On the oft-loved power rankings, the Vikings have dropped hard – understandably so. But, a win today and the Vikings control their own playoff destiny. A loss and the sound you will hear is that of ankles breaking jumping off the bandwagon.

No Moss and "no mas" are two very different things. It's time for the Vikings to prove whether they are a division champ or a team that sneaks in a wild card team. The direction that takes will put an end to the overanalyzing of the Vikes – for one week anyway.

SUNDAY NOTES
** Satire. A simple word, but one in the post-Nipplegate era that is hard to understand. ABC and the NFL have come under fire – and the media (print, broadcast and Internet) have fueled the flames. As a parent of two daughters, I found the Monday Night Football opening a bit over the top. But, my kids weren't watching. To those (and there are WAY too many) who have chimed in denouncing the spot, keep this in mind – is ANYONE talking about the Jesse Ventura "bit" from the week before? Will additional millions be tuning in this week for the MNF opening to see what's coming next? Yep. It's not "show friends," it's "show business." The more it gets discussed, the more legitimacy it gets. It's sweeps month, people. Get a grip.
** The NFL announced its semifinalists for the Hall of Fame. Two former Vikings linemen – Chris Doleman and Gary Zimmerman – are among the 25 selected finalists. But, in a group that includes Dan Marino, Steve Young, Art Monk, Michael Irvin and Derrick Thomas, their odds don't look too promising.
** Both the Vikings and Lions come into today's game on a three-game losing streak.
** Aside from all the regulars in the Pick the Pros at VU, the nine "experts" at The Sporting News and 10 "experts" at Pro Football Weekly pick the Vikings to beat the Lions. Can 37 "experts" be wrong?
** Happy Thanksgiving, Nick Coleman. Hopefully, he isn't in charge of stuffing the turkey. If so, maybe a "thick-necked" guy like Mike Tice can show him how. Stuffing a turkey is a lot like meeting a sitting president face to face – if called, you do it. Or, if you can't, stick to what you do best – not venturing into tides you can't handle.

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