Yes, the Minnesota Vikings aware they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the playoff race despite a 2-7 slide that certainly felt like it hit a season-defining wall in last Sunday’s 34-6 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts (6-7).
But while players remain hopeful that they’ll get all the help they need, they also know who has to help them first: Themselves.
“We have to take care of business ourselves or what’s the point?” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “We’ve got to win. We’ve got to win. If we don’t win, we’re not going anywhere anyway.”
Easier said than done for the team that once was 5-0 and the NFL’s last unbeaten squad. Next up for the Vikings (7-7) is a Christmas Eve trip to Green Bay.
They’ve won two straight against Green Bay — last year’s division-clinching regular-season finale at Lambeau Field and a 17-14 Week 2 win this year at U.S. Bank Stadium — but the Packers (8-6) have won four straight while posting a plus-11 turnover margin.
Green Bay is plus-10 with no giveaways in wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears the last two weeks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the first time since 1978 that the Packers have been plus-10 in back-to-back games.
The Vikings were plus-13 on the season heading into the Colts game. The Colts were minus-5. But the Colts didn’t turn the ball over while the Vikings turned it over three times, including a fumble in the red zone by Adrian Peterson, who returned from knee surgery after spending 11 games on injured reserve.
Peterson finished with 22 yards on six carries and had the opposite effect of what the Vikings were hoping.
Caught trying to get Peterson into the flow of the game, the Vikings never got into sync and were down 17-0 by the time Peterson played his sixth of 12 snaps.
Peterson watched most of the second half from the sideline as the Vikings’ playoff chances grew smaller and smaller.
First, the Vikings needed Dallas to beat Tampa Bay on Sunday night. They got help there.
Now, they need to:
–Win at Green Bay and at home against Chicago.
–Have Tampa Bay go 0-2 in games at New Orleans and at home to Carolina.
–Have Washington go 1-1 or worse at Chicago and at home against the Giants.
–Have the Packers go 0-2 or 1-1 if the win is over the Lions in Week 17 and the Lions beat the Cowboys in Week 16.
Being millennials, the players probably know there’s a two percent chance of them making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Being anything but a millennial, coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t interested in FiveThirtyEight.com or anybody else’s opinion on the chances of his team making the playoffs.
“I haven’t looked at anything on that,” Zimmer said. “My job is to go out and beat Green Bay, however we can do it.”
Munnerlyn said he watched his old team, Carolina, on Monday night because the Vikings needed the Panthers to beat the Redskins to improve their playoff chances.
“I watched them just to see if we still had a little chance, a little chance, a little hope,” Munnerlyn said. “The Panthers took care of business … for us, so I’ll make sure I text a couple of those guys and say thanks.”
But will it matter? Probably not.
–The Vikings will send four players to the Pro Bowl, including cornerback Xavier Rhodes for the first time.
“Growing up I always thought if you made the Pro Bowl you were viewed as the best at your position in the eyes of the other players and fans, so it’s definitely an honor,” Rhodes said after the Pro Bowl picks were announced Tuesday night. “I’ve worked hard and put in work all year to be the best corner I can for this team.”
Going for the second time are defensive end Everson Griffen, safety Harrison Smith and Cordarrelle Patterson, voted in as the kick returner for the second time and the first time since his rookie season in 2013.
Smith led the fan voting at his position. He had 84 tackles and two sacks in 12 games before missing the last two because of an ankle injury.
“I don’t play for my own accolades, I play to win games,” Smith said. “But it is an honor to be selected again for the Pro Bowl. Going last year with four teammates was a good experience. I was more excited to see Xavier made it than myself. He deserves this recognition.”
–Defensive tackle Toby Johnson has been kind of a human yo-yo with the Vikings this season. He turned some heads in training camp, but was released.
The young journeyman landed on the practice squad for 14 weeks and then ended up back with the team when defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 12. But then Johnson was released a few days later to make room for Adrian Peterson’s return from injured reserve.
Asked about that move, Johnson joked: “I was sad, but I’d choose AP over me, too.”
Johnson kept the faith and he’s back on the roster. Veteran defensive tackle Tom Johnson sustained a torn hamstring in the loss to the Colts and was placed on injured reserve. Toby Johnson was re-signed and will see playing time at Green Bay since the Vikings have only two other defensive tackles, Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen, on the 53-man roster.
NOTES: RB Adrian Peterson did not practice Wednesday because of “nicks” he said he sustained in the 12 snaps he got against the Colts on Sunday while returning from knee surgery that put him on injured reserve for 11 games. Peterson said he wants to play Saturday at Green Bay, but is taking things “one day at a time” as he rehabs his right knee. … TE Kyle Rudolph has a career-high 66 catches, the fifth highest total by a tight end in Vikings history and tied with Jason Witten for the most by a tight end in the NFL this season. He needs 14 catches in two games to move ahead of record-holder Joe Senser, who had 79 catches in 1981. … DE Danielle Hunter has 10 1/2 sacks, a team high. The Vikings are the only team in the league that has three defensive ends with seven or more sacks. Everson Griffen has eight and Brian Robison has seven. … QB Sam Bradford has thrown only four interceptions in 469 passes this season. The Vikings have thrown only four in 504 attempts. Only the Patriots, with two in 487 attempts, have a lower interception percentage. … NT Linval Joseph has a career-high 89 tackles. That’s the most by a Vikings defensive tackle since Kevin Williams had 98 in 2004. … WR Stefon Diggs (hip) did not practice on Wednesday. He caught only two passes for 13 yards in the Colts game. … WR Laquon Treadwell (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. He didn’t play against the Colts and has only one catch all season. … RG Brandon Fusco (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday and probably won’t play against the Packers. He suffered his second concussion of the season two weeks ago and missed last week’s game against the Colts. If he doesn’t play, the Vikings will continue to go with Joe Berger at right guard and Nick Easton at center. … FS Harrison Smith, who has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury, did not practice again on Wednesday. He was stretching with the team before practice, a sign that he’s closer to being ready to play and was walking without a limp. Smith probably will have to practice Thursday to have any chance of being cleared to play. … FB Zach Line, who sustained a concussion against the Colts, was limited in Wednesday’s practice. … CB Trae Waynes, who missed the Colts game because of a concussion, was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Copyright © 2016
TTWN Media Networks Inc.