Division chases could be anticlimactic

The Vikings aren't the only team well in control of their division. The final month of the season for NFL fans could be focused on wild-card scenarios instead of division races.

The NFL may be the most exciting sport on the fan horizon, but the odds of having a playoff chase with division titles up for grabs until the final game is played isn't likely to happen. As it stands now, the battles may, by and large, be for wild card spots.

Through 10 games, there are no ties among division leaders. New England has a two-game lead in the AFC East, Indianapolis has a five-game lead in the AFC South, the Vikings have a three-game lead in the NFC North, the Saints have a five-game lead in the NFC South and the Cardinals have a three-game lead in the NFC West.

While there are some closer division races, for the most part, five of the league's eight divisional races are decided already and, if not for a mini-collapse by the Broncos and Bengals, two more would added to that list.

The 2009 season has been unique in that there are teams that are dominant and those that are whipping boys and the line between the good and the bad is getting more and more distinct all the time. There are a handful of teams more than likely to lose 12 or more games, including St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, and Kansas City and just as many that could lose 10 or 11 at a minimum.

The same goes for the top-end teams. The Patriots made history in 2007 by going undefeated throughout the regular season. If the Saints can get past New England next Monday, there is a good chance that there could be not just one unbeaten team in the NFL this regular season, but two. The Colts are also undefeated.

While there is still plenty of time for things to turn around and the races to tighten up, all signs are pointing to the December wind-up of the regular season to be anticlimactic in terms of division title races. The Vikings, Saints, Cardinals, Patriots and Colts could have things wrapped up weeks in advance of the playoffs and at least one of the other three divisions could end up the same way if the Bengals, Chargers and Cowboys get hot.

Vikings fans have it good this season and it would appear as though things are going to continue to be bright in that regard. But it would seem that the battles to watch in December aren't going to be for division titles, but for wild card berths and playoff positioning within the conferences. With three of the four NFC divisions already wrapped up for the most part, the excitement is going to surround who will lock down the final three spots, not who wraps up the top three positions.


  • Brett Favre has been nominated for the FedEx Air Player of the Week after throwing four touchdowns and completing 22 of 25 passes for 213 yards in the Vikings' 35-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Favre completed a career-best 88 percent of his passes and was pulled before the end of the third quarter as the Vikings had built a 28-0 lead. He has won the award three other times this year, including last week in his win over the Lions. The award is voted on by fans at NFL.com/FedEx. The other nominees for the award are Cleveland's Brady Quinn and Detroit's Matthew Stafford, whose teams were playing each other.

  • Vikings coach Brad Childress said Pro Bowl CB Antoine Winfield (foot) is getting close to playing. Winfield was inactive Sunday for the fourth straight game.

  • Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, WR Sidney Rice and TE Visanthe Shiancoe are visiting Austin, Minn. Tuesday as part of the Vikings' "You Made The Team" community tour. They are stopping at the Austin YMCA to encourage children to be physically active as part of the NFL's "Play 60" initiative. The curriculum helps teachers incorporate physical activities into all courses, not just physical education classes. Team personnel will also attend a luncheon hosted by the Vikings and the Austin Chamber of Commerce at the Hormel Historic Home, where the Vikings will talk about giving back to local communities, conduct a Q&A with KFAN host and Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen and give away autographed items.

  • The Vikings' Dec. 6 game at the Arizona Cardinals has been changed to a 7:30 p.m. Central start time as part of the league's flexible scheduling option late in the season to put better matchups on NBC's Sunday Night Football telecasts. The game was originally scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

  • The Vikings' game against the Chicago Bears this Sunday is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Central after originally being scheduled at noon. The schedule changes are all part of the team's success, as they offer more compelling television to a national audience.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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