Playoffs Still Within Sight

There are many reasons for fans to be down on the Vikings. With a sputtering offense that has done little to inspire confidence, the playoffs aren't that far out of the realm of possibility. In fact, the Vikings may have more control of their own destiny than the other playoff contenders.

As it currently stands, the Vikings are the 10th seed in the playoff hunt in the NFC. While that is no reason for fans to be overly optimistic, it isn't as bad as it might seem.

If the Vikings win their final four games – they could well be favored in all four or very slight underdogs – a 9-7 record would likely be enough to secure one of the available remaining spots. If that were to happen, the Vikings would have an 8-4 record in the conference (they would have an 8-4 NFC record even if they lost to the Jets and finished 8-8).

While the team would need a considerable amount of help, the schedule lays out in their favor. This week, two of the teams in front of them – the Giants and Panthers – play each other. One of those teams will drop to 6-7. If it is Carolina, the Vikings have a tie-breaker over them with a victory. The Panthers also play the 6-6 Falcons in Week 16, who finish the season with games at Dallas, vs. the Panthers and at Philadelphia. The Eagles, the lone remaining 6-6 team, embark on a stretch this week of three straight road games against the other teams of the NFC East.

As hard as it may be to believe, the Vikings might end up becoming big fans of the Cowboys. They already beat the Giants to drop them to 6-6 last week and can help out the Vikings by beating the Eagles and Falcons later this month.

It might be overly optimistic to think the way the Vikings have played over the last six weeks that a playoff berth is even something they should be discussing, but to look at the closing schedules of the teams battling it out for the final two spots in the big dance, nobody has an easier path than the Vikings and the spot is there for the taking.

* The Vikings return to practice today with open questions remaining about the starting quarterback. Some believe Childress is making a mistake by not aggressively addressing the situation. On Monday, he stated that he would wait until later in the week to make a decision. The problem with that strategy is that it can allow opposing camps within the team to form – some who think the best chance of winning is with Brad Johnson and others who say give Tarvaris Jackson a shot. Then you'll have a true QB controversy.
* The Vikings have 93 penalties – the most of any team in the NFL. For a coach that stresses discipline as much as Childress, that can't be an acceptable number.

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