Are You a Believer?

The Vikings have gone from funeral to fortunate in the span of five weeks. Today's game with the Rams could go a long way to determining whether the Vikings have a shot at the playoffs or not.

What a difference a month and change can make. The Vikings have gone from sex to six -- being mired in the infamous boat scandal to looking to win their sixth consecutive game.

Whether coincidence or not, the Vikings became the national target of ridicule after a Twin Cities TV station pillaged through garbage for potential clues to the boat scandal during the beginning of the television November sweeps period. It seemed to crystalize the players that they were all being painted with a broad brush. The Vikings haven't lost since. Coincidence? Perhaps. Beating Detroit twice and the Packers and Browns hasn't been hard for other teams to do, but it has proved a point. The Vikings, for whatever reason, have pulled it together. Coach Mike Tice said he never lost the faith -- even when most fans had.

"They have stuck together," Tice said. "They believed in the message we were preaching. I believed all along we were a good football team."

It seems that the rest of the world is starting to catch up on that line of thinking.

SUNDAY NOTES
* In the last eight games, the Vikings defense has allowed just 79.8 yards a game rushing.
* In the experts section of the Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly, 19 different analysts pick winners for Sunday's games. All 19 picked the Vikings to beat the Rams.
* In the last seven games, Rams wide receiver Kevin Curtis has averaged 26 yards per reception and scored four touchdowns -- which should be enough to get the attention of the Vikings' defensive coaching staff.
* During the Vikings' five-game winning streak, they have created 16 turnovers -- four fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions.
* The Vikings are second in the NFL with 18 interceptions.
* Antoine Winfield may be asked to spy Torry Holt throughout Sunday's game -- lining up on whichever side Holt goes to.
* Despite playing only on rushing downs, Pat Williams ranks third on the team with 52 tackles. * Rams right tackle Alex Barron is still listed as questionable with a thumb injury. He is one of two rookie starters on the Rams offensive line.
* The Vikings finally face a defense that is rated statistically lower than they are. The Rams come in with the seventh-ranked offense -- 26th rushing and second passing -- while the Vikings are 25th -- 24th rushing and 21st passing. But the Vikings are 25th overall on defense -- 18th rushing and 23rd passing -- while the Rams are 31st -- 30th vs. the run and 28th vs. the pass.
* In the 10 games he's played, Holt is averaging 7.5 receptions and 102 yards a game.
* Paul Edinger has been money late in games, but he has missed eight of 25 field goal attempts. His .680 field goal percentage is second-worst in the NFL -- ahead of only David Akers of the Eagles.
* The Rams are 2-9 in their last 11 road games, with wins coming this year against the woeful Cardinals and Texans.
* Brad Johnson has a 3-0 career record vs. the Rams.
* In the five-game winning streak, only the Bears and Panthers have allowed fewer points than the Vikings.
* Heading into today's game, the Vikings trail the Cowboys in the wild card chase because Dallas has a better conference record (6-3) than the Vikings (6-4).
* In England, where there's a sports book for every bet, the Vikings have dropped all the way to 9-2 in betting odds to win the NFC North.
* With a win today, Tice will improve to 31-31 in his coaching career -- the first time he will be at the .500 career mark since October of 2004.
* Since hiring Foge Fazio and Jerry Rhome as consultants, the Vikings have gone 6-1.
* On the ESPN website, coaches are given an approval rating by fan vote. Tice's approval rating now stands at 73 percent -- up from 21 percent before the five-game winning streak.

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