How has Randy Moss fared against the Redskins before? Do the Vikings have the edge with Mike Tice having played for Joe Gibbs? Which players are hot and which ones are on the decline? Here's a look at game and player notes for both the Vikings and Redskins, as Minnesota prepares for what it hopes will be a win to clinch a playoff berth.
VIKINGS NOTES --WR Randy Moss was a rookie the last time the Vikings played the Redskins. He caught five passes for 64 yards and no touchdowns in the 41-7 victory at the Metrodome in 1998.
Vikings special teams coach Rusty Tillman, a special teams standout with the Redskins from 1970-77, was selected to the Redskins' 70th anniversary team in 2002.
After saying every week since the end of July that the No. 1 goal of the season was to win the NFC North, coach Mike Tice has spent this week arguing that making the playoffs as a wild card is basically just as good. The Vikings lost the NFC North title to the Packers on a last second field goal on Christmas Eve. "Our other goal (winning the Super Bowl) is still out there," Tice said. "I was on a wild-card team in Seattle in 1983 that beat a very good Miami team to make it to the AFC Championship Game. The regular season doesn't matter once you get to the playoffs."
The Vikings are 2-19 in their last 21 games on grass dating to October 2000. They're 1-3 this season on grass. The lone victory came in overtime at Houston on Oct. 10.
Vikings coach Mike Tice, an NFL tight end for 14 seasons, played for the Redskins in 1989 under coach Joe Gibbs. "I understand how coach Gibbs and his staff think," Tice said. "I played for some of those guys." Gibbs was away from the game for 12 years before returning this season. The Redskins are 5-10 and out of the playoffs heading into Sunday's game. Told that many of the core beliefs in the Vikings' offense can be traced back to Gibbs' offense of the 1980s and early 1990s, Gibbs laughed. "I think we're the ones that should be looking at how the Vikings do things on offense," Gibbs said.
The Vikings can make the playoffs Sunday if they win or if either Carolina or St. Louis loses. Carolina plays New Orleans at home. St. Louis plays the Jets at home. All three games start at 1 p.m. Eastern. Tice said he will try not to look at the out-of-town scoreboard at FedEx Field. "I don't even want to know," he said. "Our goal is to beat Washington."
CB Brian Williams has worn down late in the last two games, the Vikings' coaches believe, because he plays on three special teams. Plans this week are to reduce his role on special teams.
DT Spencer Johnson's 11 total tackles and nine solos against the Packers last week were season highs for a Vikings defensive lineman. Chris Hovan, the player Johnson replaced as a starter, has only 23 tackles in 12 games this season. Johnson will start his seventh game of the season against Washington. That's the most by a rookie free agent since CB Wymon Henderson's eight in 1987.
K Morten Andersen, 44, is tied for sixth in the NFC in points with 95. Andersen has played an NFL-record 353 games. He leads Tennessee's Gary Anderson by one game. Morten Andersen hopes to continue playing next season. Gary Anderson has said he doesn't want to play beyond this season although he has been lured out of retirement the last three seasons, once by the Vikings in 2002 and twice by the Titans since 2003.
QB Daunte Culpepper has completed an NFL-best 69.8 percent of his passes this season. He is certain to lock up the team record, breaking his mark of 65 percent set last season. Culpepper, in fact, has four of the top five season marks for passing accuracy. He completed 64.2 percent in 2001 and 62.7 percent in 2000.
Once a week, a local television station has WR Kelly Campbell roam the locker room and players' lounge asking teammates a specific question. The subject is always light and Campbell's amped-up personality adds to the playfulness.
It's also the only time Randy Moss has said anything for the public to hear in months. But don't get too excited. There are no football-related questions. But if you were dying to know that Moss' favorite cartoon character is "Doo" — as in Scooby Doo — then you're happy.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Back in, jog in, walk in, run in, do a cartwheel in, who cares? Just get in, because there are only six teams from each conference in, so there are 20 guys pissed off and there are 12 guys happy." — Coach Mike Tice, talking about his team's playoff chances despite losing six of the last nine games. The Vikings will clinch a playoff spot with a victory over the Redskins or a loss or tie by either Carolina or St. Louis.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS NOTES
HB Chris Cooley has emerged as a major playmaker in the season's second half. After recording just 10 catches for 87 yards through the first eight games, he since has 24 receptions for 203 yards.
"He just feels what we're trying to do, and he feels what I'm expecting," QB Patrick Ramsey said. "He's always where you expect him to be. Some guys have the speed. Some guys have (other things). He's just got great awareness as far as where to be and how to get open."
Cooley is focused on becoming an all-around contributor to the offense, which means run-blocking and pass protection as much as catching balls.
"I feel like I'm improving in every area," Cooley said. "I watch film from the beginning of the year and preseason to now, and I think I look so much better out on the field. I feel better out there. I feel faster. And I also feel quite a bit stronger."
RB Clinton Portis believes he never quite felt comfortable in coach Joe Gibbs' offense, which has its roots in slow-developing power plays, not the stretch plays and quick-hitters that Portis favored in Denver. The former Pro Bowl rusher finished with 1,315 yards; he won't play in the finale against Minnesota because of a torn pectoral tendon.
"I never scratched the surface of it," Portis said. "The first part of the year, we couldn't get people to respect our passing game, and they would just stack the box. I would get hit in the legs, and even if I made somebody miss, somebody else would be there. Our offense wasn't clicking on all cylinders."
A review of Washington's offensive statistics showed that the club mostly regressed under Gibbs, who was brought in as the supposed antidote for former coach Steve Spurrier. For example, these Redskins are averaging 20 yards and 3.3 points fewer per game, as well as 0.2 yards fewer per rush.
"We have had a very tough year all year," Gibbs said. "We haven't put the points up. We haven't been productive. I felt like we were starting to make some strides here over the last four or so games on making plays and putting together drives. We have done that. So has there been some improvement? Yeah. Has it been the improvement we wanted? No."
LB LaVar Arrington (knee) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
RB Clinton Portis (pectoral) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
CB Ade Jimoh (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.