Just Crown The Vikes?

Former Vikings coach Dennis Green thinks that, had the Vikings not let some games slip away, they should be (and are) a lot better than their 4-6 record would indicate.

Sunday's Vikings-Cardinals game isn't getting the sort of national attention some local fans thought it should when the season began. FOX made its decision on the significance of the game. You won't see Joe Buck and Troy Aikman or the studio guys on the sidelines Sunday. You won't even see diminutive sideline reporter Jay Glazer. FOX has assigned the game to Matt Vasgersian and J.C. Pearson – not exactly the "A" Team – and there won't be a sideline reporter, one of only two FOX games this weekend that won't have one (the other being the 49ers-Rams game). The game will be televised primarily in Minnesota and Arizona and probably for good reason. When you have a 4-6 team playing a 2-8 team, it doesn't cause a groundswell of national interest or make the game "must-see TV" for casual fans.

But the game will have significance on the home front. It will mark the regular-season return of Dennis Green to the Metrodome – his first return in a game that counts since he brokered his way out of his contract with the Vikings at the end of the 2001 season. While Green would love to get a win over his former team, he isn't taking the Vikings lightly. Instead, he showed a lot of respect for his former team, saying that the Vikings are a couple of mistakes away from potentially being the second-best team in the NFC behind the Bears.

"I think both teams have let a lot of games slip away," Green said of the Vikings and Cardinals. "We have done it, so we've done it in all kinds of bizarre ways. The Vikings have allowed some games to slip away also. You're basically looking at a team that could very easily be one play here, one play there, the Vikings would be 7-3. I think you look at defensively, that's an incredible defense that they have put together. You watch and you see the teams that have run the ball very well – we've played some of them – Green Bay for one could not run at all against that Viking front. So defensively I think that's going to give anybody some huge problems. Offensively of course we worked with Brad (Johnson) years ago, and he's still a very talented player. One of the smartest guys in the game, knows where the ball is supposed to go, gets it out of his hands very quickly. Offensively, defensively, and of course once they added Bethel Johnson with his speed – not only as a wide receiver -- and Troy Williamson, their speed at wide receiver, but also Bethel's return capabilities and Mewelde Moore's return capabilities, the Vikings are definitely a very dangerous team that easily could be sitting right in the heart of the playoff run."

Instead, the Vikings are playing for their playoff lives and Green is coaching to try to save his job, which many have insinuated is in severe jeopardy. It has the makings of an exciting game. Unfortunately for the coaches and players, unless fans nationwide have the NFL Ticket, very few of them are going to see it.

* Think the Cardinals are drooling over the possibility of picking apart the Vikings 26th-ranked defense? Don't bet on it. Holy Angels high school star Larry Fitzgerald is making his Metrodome debut along with Green and he says the Vikings pass defense isn't as bad as the numbers might indicate.

"Don't let the numbers fool you," Fitzgerald said. "I know they're 26th in the league in passing, but they have ball hawks back there. Darren Sharper is one of the best free safeties of all time. Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot are really, really good football players. Dwight Smith, you can't forget about him, and the rookie they got from Texas (Cedric Griffin) is really good as well. They have a lot of talent, and that front four they have, those guys get after you. We're not fooled by that ranking at all. We know what to expect. Those guys are going to stop the run and get after the quarterback, so we know what to expect. We're going to try to be as balanced as possible, but we're going to do what we have to do to get a win."
* The Vikings defense has allowed just 2.7 yards per rush this season on 219 attempts. The Cardinals have allowed twice as many rushing yards (1,189 to 596) as the Vikings.
* The Vikings may have two changes on the offensive line Sunday. Both guard Artis Hicks and tackle Marcus Johnson are question marks with left ankle injuries. If they can't go, Jason Whittle and Mike Rosenthal are the frontrunners to replace them.
* As reported here yesterday, the Vikings made it official Wednesday by placing Tony Richardson on injured reserve and signing fullback Naufahu Tahi off the Bengals practice squad.
* The Vikings also released Richard Angulo from the practice squad and signed offensive lineman Jimmy Martin.
* Matt Birk and his wife Adrianna welcomed their third daughter Monday.
* Former Viking Todd Bouman was signed to replace injured Aaron Rodgers as Brett Favre's backup.
* The Redskins signed former Viking WR Ryan Hoag to their practice squad Wednesday.
* Jason Taylor of the Dolphins was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after his dominant performance vs. the Vikings last Sunday.

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