Wild Card Shaping Up To Be Truly Wild

The Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive Sunday with a win over the Raiders, but there are now as many as seven teams within two games of the second wild card spot and whichever team can get hot coming out of Thanskgiving has a shot in the suddenly-competitive NFC wild card chase.

A couple of weeks ago, it seemed as though the playoff picture in the NFC was pretty well determined. The Cowboys and Packers would earn first-round byes, whatever teams could manage nine wins would win the NFC South and West, and the Giants and Lions would have the wild cards locked down.

Thanks to some upsets and some tightening up of the mid-range teams, there is now quite a fight brewing for the last wild card spot. While the Lions remain the current leader for the second wild card, their schedule down the stretch is nothing short of brutal. They still have to play the Packers twice and also have the Cowboys and Chiefs at home and the Vikings and Chargers on the road. Seeing the Lions slip back to the pack in their final six games is not a longshot. In fact, it could be anticipated that the Lions would be fortunate to split their final six games.

While they need to come back to the pack, there is a clot of teams waiting behind them that could make a lot of noise if the Lions have a hiccup along the way. Three teams – the Redskins, Eagles and Cardinals – are just one game back at 5-5 and four others – the Vikings, Bears, Saints and Panthers – are at 4-6. The biggest problem for the Vikings among that group of seven teams is that they currently have the worst conference record of any of them at 2-5.

Clearly, the easiest way for the Vikings to make a playoff run is to get on a roll and win three or four games in a row. But, as dire as things looked just a week or so ago, the parity of the NFL seems to be coming back. What two weeks ago looked like a lock-down of the two wild card spots between the Giants and the Lions is now taking on the look of a much more wide open affair. If Detroit continues to slide, the Vikings and a host of others could be there waiting to take their spot. Let the scoreboard watching begin.

* The Giants are going to face the Vikings short-handed after a hard weekend on both sides of the ball. Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants strongside linebacker, was lost for the season with a broken leg and running back Brandon Jacobs pulled a hamstring and is expected to miss Sunday's game.
* Tony Richardson suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee Sunday, which is compounded by a sore ankle that has been hobbling T-Rich as well. His status for Sunday is uncertain at best.
* Antoine Winfield remains a question mark with a hamstring injury that got him pulled from Sunday's game at halftime. He will be monitored this week before a decision on his playing status for Sunday is made.
* Sidney Rice (hamstring) and Brian Robison (elbow) are both fighting injuries suffered previously, but both rookies are expected to be available for Sunday's game.
* The Vikings will make a $50,000 donation to the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that assists families dealing with childhood cancer.
* The Lions signed former Viking safety Greg Blue to a contract Monday.
* Former Viking and current Cardinal Ross Kolodziej is likely headed to the injured reserve after tearing a quadriceps muscle Sunday.
* The NFL is investigating whether the Packers defense may have violated rules pertaining to gambling and incentive pay with one another. It is claimed that the Packers D-backs offered each of the defensive linemen $500 if they could hold Adrian Peterson under 100 yards. It also alleges that the same offer was made if they held the Panthers as a team under 60 yards.

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