Cowboys Hold One of Vikings' Keys

The Minnesota Vikings are trying to concentrate on what they can control – how they play in Denver – but they realize the Dallas Cowboys will have as much to say about their playoff hopes as the Vikings do.

This section focused last week on how difficult it would be for the Vikings to miss the playoffs after reeling off five consecutive victories.

Turns out we got a bit ahead of ourselves.

The Vikings entered last Sunday night's game against Washington needing a victory to wrap up a spot in the NFL's postseason tournament. They didn't get it and as a result need some serious help this weekend if they are going to become the sixth and final playoff team in the NFC.

Minnesota not only needs to win its regular-season finale at Denver but also has to have Washington lose to visiting Dallas. That way, the Vikings would finish 9-7 and Washington would be 8-8.

If the Vikings and Washington both win, the teams would finish with identical records and the Redskins would win the tie-breaker based on their 32-21 victory at the Metrodome.

The problem isn't that the Vikings can't beat a disappointing Denver team (6-9) that is playing out the string. The major hurdle is that Dallas (13-2) already has clinched the top seed in the NFC and has little reason to play its starters for any amount of time on Sunday.

Receiver Terrell Owens already is out because of a high ankle sprain.

Washington, meanwhile, will be going all out against what likely will be the Cowboys junior varsity by the second half. The Vikings and Redskins both will have late afternoon starts, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching done by the visitors in Denver.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said he's all right with that.

"I am not going to mandate anything or ask (Denver coach) Mike Shanahan not to put the scores up there or anything like that," Childress said. "It is what it is. They certainly know what is at stake and it's the way it is today. There is going to be a time where the scores are going to flash up there, and I am sure somebody is going to whisper."

While Childress undoubtedly would like to see the Cowboys go all out, he understands the situation. Childress was the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 when they rested many of their regulars for the final two regular-season games after clinching home field with a 13-1 mark. The Eagles lost both those games but ended up advancing to the Super Bowl.

"That's the nature of the business," Childress said. "(The Cowboys) are looking at, I'm sure, being able to give it their best shot in their playoff run. We've done it before; when you have nothing to gain in terms of positioning you kind of weigh where you think you're going to be freshness-wise and sharpness-wise to what you need to do in the game you're playing."

SERIES HISTORY: 12th meeting. Vikings lead series, 7-4, although seven of the 11 games have been decided by five points or less. Minnesota has a 3-2 record in Denver.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — Points Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell needs to tie Jim Breech (1979-92) for 25th on the NFL's all-time list. Longwell has 1,240 points.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "One thing I do know about this team is ain't nobody going to lay down. Everybody is going to come back to work and everybody is going to be that much more determined to make every play count." — Wide receiver Bobby Wade on the Vikings' game Sunday at Denver. For Minnesota to make the playoffs, the Vikings must win and Dallas must beat Washington.


  • While Adrian Peterson is sure to capture multiple rookie of the year honors after the season, the Vikings clearly would like to see him improve in one area before 2008: pass protection.

    Peterson was on the sideline for several snaps in the second half of Sunday night's loss against Washington because the Vikings still feel more comfortable with veteran Chester Taylor playing in passing situations.

    Peterson is a diligent worker and no doubt will improve. His ability to stay on the field in any situation also means the Vikings might be able to use him and Taylor at the same time more often next season.

  • LB David Herron was limited in Wednesday's practice after suffering a concussion Sunday against Washington.

  • LB Vinny Ciurciu did not participate in Wednesday's practice after suffering a sprained ankle Sunday.

  • WR Sidney Rice was limited in Wednesday's practice after sitting out Sunday because of a sprained ankle.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas was limited in Wednesday's practice after sitting out Sunday because of a groin injury.

  • NT Pat Williams was held out of practice Wednesday because of a sore knee. Williams was injured Sunday against Washington but missed only four plays.

  • CB Antoine Winfield was limited in Wednesday's practice after sitting out Sunday because of a pectoral strain.

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