One Last Playoff Dance Chance

How many playoff chances will the Vikings get? Will 2005 be a year of good Vikings luck? We'll find out, as the Vikings get yet another chance to make the playoffs in one form or another.

You can call this a second chance … again.

Last year, the Vikings were facing a 3-12 Cardinals team that most thought would simply be mailing in their final performance of the season. They were going nowhere – except for a coaching staff that was sure to be fired – and had no reason to play. With one win, the Vikings would end the Packers' run atop the NFC North.

As we all know, that didn't happen. Flash forward to Christmas Eve. With a "winner take all" game for the division title, the Packers had to come into the Metrodome to beat the Vikings. Once again, it didn't happen for the Vikings.

But, unlike last year, where the loss at Arizona ended the season, the Vikings have a chance for redemption this time around. With a win at Washington today, the Vikings will make the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the NFC and head on the road to face the NFC West champion next weekend in the first round of the playoffs.

Even with a loss, if either the Rams or Panthers lose, the Vikings still make the playoffs and more than likely, travel to Green Bay next weekend.

While confusion persists about if, when and where the Vikings will play next week, the one certainty is that they have the ability to punch their own playoff ticket. They didn't get it done last year. They didn't get it done last week. Maybe this time will be the charm.

SUNDAY NOTES
* The Redskins aren't about to just lay down. The team put three players on injured reserve this weekend – including RB Clinton Portis and LB LaVar Arrington – and released another. They signed four players – DE Melvin Williams and TE Kori Dickerson as street free agents and RB Dahrran Diedrick and CB Rufus Brown from their practice squad – looking to fill out a 48-man roster one way or another.
* In last year's finale vs. Arizona, the Vikings led by 11 points with less than two minutes to play in the game.
* In the last three games, the Vikings have allowed each of their opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards.
* Patrick Ramsey may have to be an exception to that rule. In eight games this year, he has thrown for more than 215 yards in just one game.
* If not for Peyton Manning, there would be a lot more buzz about the year Daunte Culpepper. With three TDs, he will become just the fourth different player (joining Manning, Dan Marino and Kurt Warner) to throw 40 or more TDs in a season. In addition, the third-highest yardage total in NFL history is 4,802 yards by Dan Fouts. Heading into today's games, Manning was just 251 yards behind that total, while Culpepper was 384 yards behind that pace.
* Since Robert Smith retired following the 2001 season, the Vikings have had just one 1,000-yard rusher in four years.
* Onterrio Smith leads the Vikings with 539 yards and doesn't seem likely to eclipse the most recent low-totals for rushing in a season. In 1995-96, Robert Smith led the Vikings with 632 and 692 yards, respectively. With Michael Bennett expected to see much of the workload, this year's season high for a running back will be the lowest total since Scottie Graham led the team with a mere 493 yards in 1993.
* Despite missing five games, Randy Moss is tied for third in the NFL with 12 receiving touchdowns – trailing only Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison, who each have 14 TD catches.
* Today's game would seem to a battle of strength-on-strength and weakness-on-weakness. The Vikings have the third-rated offense, while Washington's defense is ranked No. 2. In contrast, the Redskins have the 29th-rated offense going up against the Vikings 29th-ranked defense.
* These teams last played in 1998, when the Vikings went 15-1 – including a 41-7 hammering of the Redskins.
* Lance Johnstone and Kevin Williams have 11 and 10 sacks, respectively – the first double-digit totals by two Vikings linemen since John Randle and Chris Doleman in 1993.
* The Vikings are 3-4 on the road, while the Redskins are just 2-5 at home this season.
* The experts have spoken – quite differently. The panel of experts at The Sporting News were in unanimous agreement – all six predict the Vikings will win today. At Pro Football Weekly, it's a much different scenario – six of PFW's 10 panelists pick the Redskins to win – but they're a bunch of Bears marks anyway.

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