Lions Upheaval Used As Minnesota's Motivation

The changes and problems in Detroit are being used to provide motivation to the Vikings this week, as coaches try to sharpen the focus of the players by saying Detroit will be looking to prove itself.

The Vikings coaching staff would have you believe the decision by the Detroit Lions to fire coach Steve Mariucci and promote defensive coordinator Dick Jauron couldn't have come at a worse time.

"It will be a hornet's nest," has been a popular phrase around Winter Park this week in reference to what the Vikings will face on Sunday at Ford Field. But the reality is that Mariucci's ouster has given Mike Tice the perfect excuse to get on his streaking team about avoiding a letdown.

With Mariucci still in place, the Vikings could have entered Sunday's game thinking a fifth victory in a row might have come easily against a 4-7 Lions team that seemed to have given up.

Instead, Tice should have no problem convincing his players that Detroit will come out with a chip on its shoulder and with a renewed vigor to either prove that Mariucci was done wrong by management or that Mariucci was the problem and a new coach can get different results.

The latter scenario likely won't be the case, but with the Vikings not knowing what to expect, there is plenty of reason to be ready to play.

Of course, the Vikings should have plenty of motivation against all five of their remaining opponents. Thanks in part to a defense that has an NFL-leading 15 takeaways in the past four games, Minnesota has rebounded from a 2-5 start and is now 6-5.

The only question is: Did the turnaround start too late?

The Bears and their stellar defense have shown no sign of slowing down in recent weeks, and they hold a two-game edge on the Vikings in the NFC North. Minnesota remains in the playoff hunt but doesn't have much, or possibly any, margin for error.

After Detroit, the Vikings will play back-to-back home games against St. Louis (5-6) and Pittsburgh (7-4) before traveling to Baltimore (3-8) on Christmas night and then closing the regular season on Jan. 1 against the Bears (8-3) at home.

The Bears must play Green Bay (2-9) twice and also will face Pittsburgh, Atlanta (7-4) and then the Vikings.

The Vikings' hope is that the New Year's Day meeting ends up being for the division title, but that seems like a reach with Chicago in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and coming off victories over Carolina and Tampa Bay.

As for the wild-card scenarios, the Vikings could be in trouble when it comes to NFC South foes Carolina (8-3), Tampa Bay (7-4) and Atlanta (7-4). All three beat Minnesota this season. The Vikings, however, did defeat the New York Giants (7-4), who are tied with Dallas atop the NFC East. The Vikings don't play the Cowboys this season.

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