Vikings need to beat a contender

The Vikings have amassed a 10-2 record, but many of their wins have come against losing teams. They have another chance to prove they can beat a winning team on Sunday when they face Cincinnati.

Vikings players attempted to say all the right things following their 30-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, talking about how they were still 10-2 and simply had to get back on track.

The most popular phrase that came out of the locker room afterward was that the Vikings had been "out-tempoed" by the Cardinals.

"We'll come back," defensive end Jared Allen said. "I feel sorry for the Cincinnati Bengals because we'll have a good week of work, we're going home and we'll rectify this."

If the Vikings fail to rectify their issues when they play host to the Bengals on Sunday it is going to raise some big-time red flags about a franchise that many have considered a serious Super Bowl contender this season.

Things certainly got more difficult last Sunday when the Vikings lost starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for the season because of a broken leg.

As if that won't be enough for skeptics to point to in trying to find reasons why the Vikings might fail, they also can cite the fact that Minnesota's schedule hasn't exactly been difficult.

Eight of the Vikings' victories have come against teams that are .500 or worse: Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle and Chicago. Out of that group, only the Ravens (6-6) have at least a .500 record.

Meanwhile, the only team with a winning record that the Vikings have beaten is Green Bay. Minnesota swept the Packers (8-4), but the last of those victories came on Nov. 1, and Green Bay has been playing much better football in recent weeks.

The Bengals will enter Sunday's game with a 9-3 record and sitting atop the AFC North. Cincinnati can clinch the division with a victory.

The Vikings, meanwhile, can clinch the NFC North with a win and a Green Bay loss at Chicago. Minnesota stands to wrap up a playoff berth with a victory or a tie and a Giants loss against Philadelphia.

Getting into the playoffs with a victory over an upper-echelon team is sure to make the Vikings feel better about the direction they are headed. Minnesota's only loss before last Sunday had come at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. The Steelers, who are now 6-6, were 5-2 after that victory and playing their best football of the season.

The Vikings then went on a four-game winning streak before losing at Arizona, but three of those wins came against the Lions, Seahawks and Bears at home. Not exactly a murderer's row of opponents.

The Cardinals were 7-4 and leading the NFC West when they routed Minnesota. You get the idea. The Vikings have proven they can beat bad teams. Now they must prove they can beat a good one.

"I feel like (that loss) was a little out of character for us and I said we have to get back to doing the same things we've been doing the past couple of weeks," Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice said. "Getting those wins, getting our tempo back up where it needs to be. Just hustling out there on the field and playing Minnesota Vikings football."

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 5-5. The Bengals cruised to a 37-8 victory over the visiting Vikings in their last meeting in 2005. The Vikings are 4-0 against the Bengals at home.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 — Vikings victories in the past 14 games (2008-09) at the Metrodome.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to get it out of your mind and go play. It's a vicious injury and something you never want to see happen to anybody. Specifically somebody that's on your team and somebody that is playing beside you all the time. How do you move forward? You have to move forward. It's just part of the game and you know that risk when you play it. We've all gone through hard times, injuries and we're rallying behind him now. You have to move ahead as a group, you're not going to do it individually. Just move ahead as a group and help each other." — Linebacker Chad Greenway on overcoming the season-ending injury that middle linebacker E.J. Henderson suffered against Arizona last Sunday. Henderson fractured his left leg.


  • WR Percy Harvin did not practice Wednesday because of an illness. Harvin has dealt with migraine headaches since he was a kid and has had a few flare-ups this season.

  • S Tyrell Johnson did not practice because of a concussion suffered last Sunday at Arizona and it would not be surprising to see him held out of a game.

  • RB Adrian Peterson did not practice because of foot and ankle issues.

  • RT Phil Loadholt did not practice because of what is believed to be a dislocated right shoulder suffered last Sunday at Arizona.

  • CB Cedric Griffin (neck) was limited in Wednesday's practice.

  • LG Steve Hutchinson (shoulder) was limited Wednesday.

  • LT Bryant McKinnie (ankle) was limited Wednesday.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe (ribs) was limited Wednesday.

  • NT Pat Williams (foot) was limited Wednesday.

  • CB Antoine Winfield (foot) was limited Wednesday.

  • WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring) was limited Wednesday.

  • RG Anthony Herrera (concussion) was limited Wednesday.

  • CB Karl Paymah (knee) was limited Wednesday.

  • TE Garrett Mills was promoted from the practice squad to take E.J. Henderson's place on the 53-man roster.

  • LB J Leman was signed to the practice squad.

  • OT Drew Radovich was signed to the practice squad.

  • CB DeAndre Wright was released from the practice squad.

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