Winfield's Ankle A Huge Question

The Vikings have sustained a rash of injuries this season -- including the first to franchise player Randy Moss. But the injury to Antoine Winfield could be even more devastating to the Vikings.

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The good news, we guess, is that the Vikings are still tied for first in the NFC North. Now that Sid has left the room, the Vikes may be in some serious trouble if early reports of the extent of Antoine Winfield's ankle injury are confirmed by tests today.

Winfield went down in the closing seconds of the first quarter with the game tied 7-7. He was replaced by Derek Ross and, after being toasted on a handful of big plays, he was supplanted in the fourth quarter by Ralph Brown.

VU has been told that Ross' failures on key plays could well result in his being released before Sunday's game vs. the Seahawks. But that's only half the problem.

The initial prognosis on the Winfield injury is a high ankle sprain -- an injury that takes rest to heal at any position, much less a cover cornerback. The full extent of the damage will be diagnosed today, but, if Winfield misses any time, this injury could be the one that turns the Vikings from contenders to pretenders in the post-season party.

MONDAY NOTES
* The only good news for the Vikes Sunday was that the Eagles hammered the Packers into submission and, from eyewitness reports, could have scored 70 points if they opted to. The bad news is that, by any measure, the Vikings should have had a one-game cushion in the division, which would have made the Christmas Eve matchup an opportunity to finally bury the Pack.
* QB Bit No. 1 -- In Green Bay's loss, Brett Favre's streak of 36 consecutive games with a TD pass ended. Johnny Unitas' record stands -- until Peyton Manning can keep his posse together and get it done.
* QB Bit No. 2 -- Manning now needs to throw just five touchdowns in his final four games to break Dan Marino's 20-year-old TD record. Maybe Manning will help revive the ability for QB's to call their own plays. In two-minute situations, a lot of QBs look good. Why? They're not being told what to do, they're doing it themselves.
* QB Bit No. 3 -- Heading into Sunday's game, Daunte Culpepper had a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio (28 TDs and seven INTs). That ratio dropped a full point Sunday -- 30 TDs to 10 INTs.
* QB Bit No. 4 -- With what can realistically be viewed in hindsight as having the season on the line, why would Culpepper, Randy Moss and the rest of the Vikings offensive stars be on the sideline on a fourth-and-5 play where the ball was snapped to safety Brian Russell? Excuses were made -- but not explored. With the gravity of the situation, why not keep a 70 percent completion passer in the game instead of a high school fake that fooled nobody except Rusty Tillman?
* The last time Culpepper threw three interceptions was last November vs. the Raiders, when the Vikes lost to trivia answer Rick Mirer.
* For a second straight week, Chris Hovan was inactive. In another "When Good Vikes Go Bad" moment, Michael Bennett was active, but ineffective. After playing just two snaps a week ago, due to a shoulder injury to Onterrio Smith, Bennett got the call. On his first -- and only -- play, he missed a chip block on Bears LB Brian Urlacher and Culpepper was sacked. Bennett did not return. The latest chapter in an interesting "changing of the guard" saga for the Vikes.
* Lost in the despair of the heinous play by all three units of the Vikings, Kevin Williams had another strong day -- recording a pair of sacks and a third that may be changed mid-week and awarded to him, as well as a fumble recovery.

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