Vikings playing to stay home

A month ago, a couple of homes playoff games looked like an easier task. Now, after a rough December, the Vikings are fighting for the No. 2 seed in the conference. In order to do that, they will have to correct a few things.

A month ago no one thought the Vikings' regular-season finale against the New York Giants on Sunday would mean much to Minnesota. The Vikings were 10-1 and appeared headed toward a top two seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

In other words life was good.

So how on earth did we get to this point?

The Vikings (11-4) will enter Sunday's game having lost three of their past four and needing a victory over the Giants in order to even have a chance at the second seed in the conference. If Philadelphia (11-4) beats Dallas on Sunday in a game that will decide the NFC East champion, the Eagles will get the second seed no matter what Minnesota does because they hold the tie-breaker.

The Vikings actually could finish as low the fourth seed. While they will play host to a home playoff game regardless because they are NFC North champions, the Vikings could find themselves on the road in the second round.

That might not be a good thing considering the Vikings past three losses have come in prime-time games on the road against Arizona, Carolina and Chicago.

Although coach Brad Childress could not pinpoint one reason why the Vikings have struggled away from home, there is little question his team's confidence has been shaken.

The Vikings are 7-0 this season at the Metrodome so playing at home Sunday after back-to-back road losses should help but this team also needs to get back the swagger that it carried throughout the months of September, October and November.

"We need to come out, every man to himself, self analyze and figure out what he needs to get better and get this team better," linebacker Ben Leber said.

That will include making corrections in a variety of areas, including tackling on defense, running the ball on offense and providing better coverage on kickoffs. Running back Adrian Peterson has not rushed for 100 yards in six games and some of that is due to a lack of holes being opened up by the offensive line.

"Each man on this team needs to go home and look himself in the mirror and figure out what we want to be this year: an 11-5 team or a 12-4 team that makes noise in the playoffs," said defensive end Jared Allen, who was one of eight Vikings named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster this week. "That's just the bottom line."

The Vikings will spend this week focusing only on their game against the Giants and downplaying anything else that might be happening around them that could affect their playoff chances.

The logic will be that the only thing they can control is the game against New York and not how the Eagles do in Dallas or Arizona fares against Green Bay.

The disappointment, however, is that it even has to come down to this. A month ago the Vikings had a chance to put many of these teams in their rearview mirror as talk heated up about a potential Super Bowl appearance. Now, just getting a playoff victory might be an accomplishment.

SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 12-8. They beat the Giants 20-19 in their regular-season finale last year at the Metrodome to clinch the NFC North title. The Vikings have won the past three meetings between the teams.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — The number of Vikings receivers with at least 40 receptions this season. According to Elias Sports Bureau it is only the second time in NFL history a team has accomplished the feat. The 1983 Dallas Cowboys also had six receivers with 40 catches.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Forget about your losses and focus on your opportunities. Forget about your difficulties and focus on your progress. All you can do is focus on what's ahead. Again, that's where we're best served. Not too far ahead. Not looking back but looking forward and knowing that that's where the rest of this season is. Forward." - Vikings coach Brad Childress on what he planned to tell his team as they began preparation for Sunday's game against the Giants after losing three of their past four.

NOTES

  • The Vikings made an interesting tweak in their secondary on Monday, moving Antoine Winfield inside in the nickel and Benny Sapp to the left corner. Ordinarily the roles are reversed but Winfield is certainly capable of playing in the slot.

    The issue is that Winfield still has not completely recovered from an injury to his right foot that kept him out for six games and he has struggled in the past two games because he has been slowed.

  • DT Jimmy Kennedy did not practice Wednesday because of a thumb injury suffered Monday night against Chicago. Kennedy started in place of the injured Pat Williams against the Bears.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe did not practice Wednesday because of a thigh injury suffered Wednesday and it's not certain if he will play Sunday against the New York Giants.

  • S Eric Frampton was limited because of an ankle injury in Wednesday's practice.

  • LG Steve Hutchinson was limited because of a shoulder injury in Wednesday's practice.

  • C John Sullivan was limited because of a knee injury Wednesday.

  • DT Pat Williams continued to be limited because of an elbow injury that held him out of Monday's game in Chicago.

  • CB Antoine Winfield continues to be limited in practice because of a foot injury that kept him out for six games earlier this season. Winfield has struggled in the past two games.


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