Picking the Vikes’ last sixMake no mistake, like a game of 500, the NFC North is still very much up for grabs. And to the surprise of many who predicted that the Vikings would again be receiving swirlies from their bigger, stronger division rivals, Minnesota is still in the hunt for the division title at 6-4.
By: Casey Johnson For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Make no mistake, like a game of 500, the NFC North is still very much up for grabs.
And to the surprise of many who predicted that the Vikings would again be receiving swirlies from their bigger, stronger division rivals, Minnesota is still in the hunt for the division title at 6-4.
Sure, the division-leading Bears (7-2) have one of the best defenses in the league, which is putting up more points than some teams’ offenses (cough, Jacksonville). And sure, the Packers (7-3) have the mustached Aaron Rodgers under center. But, like most teams, both of those squads also have their own question marks. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a concussion, which forced him to miss Monday night’s game against the 49ers, and Green Bay has battled injuries all season, with Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and Greg Jennings all currently banged up.
The Packers also have a kicker who might be in the middle of a mental meltdown, as Mason Crosby has hit just six of his last 13 field goal attempts.
Both Green Bay and Chicago have division-intensive schedules from here on out. The Packers also have to go to New York to play the Giants next week.
In thinking about the division title and upcoming matchups, I’m also led to consider how the remainder of the Vikings’ schedule, as a whole, will unfold. Furthermore, will their results going forward be good enough to earn them a playoff berth?
Man, who would’ve thought before the season began that anyone would be saying Vikings and playoff berth in the same sentence. At the beginning of the year, it would have been like using lamb and tuna fish in the same sentence or like pairing American Idol and still relevant together. It just didn’t seem to make any sense. Yet, here we are in week 11, and the Vikings are still in the playoff picture.
So, in hopes of saying “I told you so” down the road, I will try my hand at prognosticating the outcomes of Minnesota’s six remaining games, and please keep in mind that, if my predictions are inaccurate, I will pretend that I never made them.
At Chicago (Sunday): Vikings 23 Bears 20
It’s a typical, ugly NFC North, black-and-blue type game on a nasty, torn up Soldier Field. The key storyline is that a still groggy Jay Cutler overcompensates while trying to prove to everyone that he is tough enough to come back from his concussion and play well, and in doing so, he turns the ball over multiple times. These turnovers result in several short-field opportunities for the Vikes and several head down, pouting faces for Cutler. Minnesota’s win, combined with a Green Bay loss to the Giants, creates a three-way tie for first place in the division, with the Packers, Bears, and Vikings all having 7-4 records.
At Green Bay (12/2): Packers 31, Vikings 20
The defending NFC North champion Packers display their ability to win big games, and even though the Vikings’ secondary is revamped, Aaron Rodgers still feasts on the Vikings’ defense just like he did last year when he threw for nearly 600 yards, seven touchdowns, and zero interceptions in 2 games against Minnesota. It pains me to say this, but I don’t think that any Vikings will be able to gloat enough to warrant pretending to moon the Packers fans this time around.
Chicago (12/9): Bears 27, Vikings 17
The wannabe pretty boy Jay Cutler is back to full health, which is bad for Minnesota. By the time this game rolls around, the Vikings’ secondary will have another important player injured in addition to Chris Cook, and as a result, Cutler and Brandon Marshall torch the Vikes. The Bears’ defense also remedies their defensive deficiencies from their week 12 loss to Minnesota, and they make Christian Ponder’s day more miserable than eating an uncut apple with newly tightened braces on.
At St. Louis (12/16): Vikings 24, Rams 20
In a battle of two teams that look to pound the ground game, the Vikings have the better back, and Adrian Peterson leads Minnesota to a victory. Don’t be sad St. Louis. It’s better than a tie.
At Houston (12/23): Texans 30, Vikings 16
The class of the AFC shows Minnesota how Texas’s best team does it. That’s right Dallas. You’ve been usurped. The Texans need the win to help secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and Minnesota is no match for Houston’s suffocating defense and terrific rushing attack.
Green Bay (12/30): Vikings 30, Packers 17
Green Bay doesn’t need this game because they’ve already secured the NFC North championship, and they’re not catching Atlanta for home field throughout the playoffs. As a result, Green Bay’s stars just enjoy a weekend of big city livin’ in Minneapolis. They don’t play on Sunday, and we all get to watch Graham Harrell, not Aaron Rodgers, lead the Packers to a meaningless loss. Minnesota wins the game, but like the instructions on the back of a Pop Tart, it doesn’t mean anything important. The Packers win the division, and the Vikings get to ice fish.
So, as these predictions illustrate, although the Vikings are currently in the mix for the NFC North crown, I think that they will fall short and finish the season at 9-7. And not only will that not be good enough to win the division, but it won’t be good enough to make the playoffs, as the 10-6 Seattle Seahawks, with their hideous, video game jerseys, and the 10-6 Chicago Bears eek out the Wild Card spots.
A 9-7 record, if achieved, would signify a gigantic step forward for a team coming off of a 3-13 season and that appeared to have a long road back to relevancy in front of them. A 9-7 record isn’t fantastic, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, especially in a division as difficult and competitive as the NFC North, which is currently the only division in the NFL to have three teams with winning records.
Going 9-7 will give the Vikings something positive to build on, and it may just provide a warning to the rest of the division that the Vikings are no longer the bowling pin of a team that was consistently toppled the past few seasons by superior opponents.
My prediction is 9-7. But regardless, go Vikings! Feel free to do better and make me look like an idiot.
Casey Johnson, a Jamestown native, is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner