Charles “The Prodigy” Richey is an on-air host and producer for chicagolandsportsradio.com, he writes on the NFC North for WARR
It’s been an incredible ride for the Minnesota Vikings to the top of the NFC North and possibly to all the NFC, considering all they had to overcome throughout the season.
Let’s go back following Week 1 in which the appointed starting quarterback out of camp, Sam Bradford, had injured his knee during a victory over the Saints. Teddy Bridgewater was slowly making his way back to the active roster so all that was left on the QB cupboard was sixth-year journeyman Case Keenum, who a lot of people doubted would be a guy to take charge of this team based on his previous five years of little to no on-field success.
Keenum entered his official start for the Vikings back in Week 3 against the Steelers and then with Bradford trying a comeback in Week 5 against the Bears and promptly getting ran off, Case got put back on the case, came off the bench and never lost the job since after defeating the Bears on Monday Night at Soldier Field. From the moment on, he has compiled a 10-3 record, including leading the Norsemen to a complete 16-0 shutout victory against the rival Green Bay Packers last night.
As a result of their recent efforts, Minnesota has collected its latest NFC North Division title and are in control for a first round bye in the NFC playoffs.
In order for the playoffs to run through Minnesota, the Vikings need to win their remaining two games and for the Eagles to lose out. For now, the Vikings can clinch a first round bye with a combination of two games: either a Vikings win plus a Panthers loss in Week 16 or they win out, or a win in Week 16 and either a Vikings win or Panthers loss in Week 17.
It will be interesting to see how they will outdo their most impressive performance in Week 15 over the Bengals, who they beat 34-7. Their defense currently ranks second in the league each in scoring and total yards allowed. Giving up no points and 239 total yards to Green Bay was a good start to this season’s conclusion.
In the meanwhile, a lot of players and coaches on the Vikings knew that at some point, any huge success would have to go through Green Bay.
“We’re trying to make this a good rivalry,” Zimmer said this week. “I mean, we’ve beat ’em a few times, but I don’t know if they consider it a rivalry yet.”
The Vikings have only won the Division three times within the past 10 seasons. Just like this rivalry, the Vikings will have to continue to intensify their level of focus at an all-time high.
Lions Need Too Much Help For Playoffs
Now that the division hopes have been clearly dashed a week ago, it’s time for Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell to get his men back in focus to end the season right. Many left the Lions for dead, especially when Matt Stafford injured his wrist during the game against the Ravens they lost to in Week 13. Then, guess what, back-to-back wins over the Bucs and Bears and the Lions find themselves with one last major push.
The biggest challenge begins traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals who are already eliminated and most likely will be playing for pride behind their head coach, Marvin Lewis. It was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Lewis was going to be moving on, but following the loss to the Vikings, he shot down those reports.
“No, these guys are on their phone with somebody that’s not watching or has anything to do with the NFL,” Lewis said in his post-game news conference last week. A similar thought can be wondered about Jim Caldwell with no division championships and not one playoff victory.
In his four seasons, he has compiled up a 35-27 record. The question remains, is he the guy to continue to create and maintain a winning record despite going to the playoffs two times? What’s it going to take to take advantage of a division where Aaron Rodgers has been out for significant time two times in his career?
Now the only hope is to get the Wild Card once again — it won’t be easy, but it’s doable the rest of the way. The Lions will need to win out and hope for the Falcons to lose their remaining games. Fortunately for the Lions, the Falcons need to finish out their season against divisional opponents. The dubious task will be to survive Cincinnati and hold off a Green Bay team that in all likelihood play the role of spoiler maker.
According to the New York Times, the Lions have a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs. With any loss along the way, they will be eliminated. One thing that will be for sure, is if they get in and pick up a playoff win, both Caldwell and Stafford would have a taken a major step in finally building a long-term winning culture.
Time For Pack To Pack In
The Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes came to an abrupt end as a result of not only falling to the Carolina Panthers Sunday, 31-24, but the Falcons defeating the Bucs on Monday Night. Playing the role of a spoiler didn’t work out too well either against the Vikings.
With an end result to the season settled this week , the question became what to do with Aaron Rodgers in the remaining two games? Sit out or rest up and get ready for next season. Decisions, decisions.
That question was answered with Brett Hundley coming out to start Saturday night’s game. With nothing on the line for the Pack it was quite obvious that potentially re-injuring Rodgers was not worth any possible result, even a win over the eternal rivals from Minnesota.
A-Rod got his opportunity to play the role of hero last week in coming back against Carolina, he didn’t come through, simple as that. Rodgers did throw successfully for 290 yards and three touchdowns, but he turned the ball over three times. Also, he got taken down three times, with the Packers sideline surely taking big gasps as he landed each time. Who needs that stress for another two weeks?
Aaron has acknowledged he was a little sore after the game and that it wasn’t one of his best performances.
“Aaron Rodgers is sore — rightfully so,” McCarthy said at Monday’s press conference.
“He was hit too many times, took two big hits. So we’re working through that. So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
In other notable news, the Packers have resigned backup quarterback, Joe Callahan. Most likely this can be a sign that the Packers will allow Brett Hundley to start the rest of the way. It’s still to be determined if there will be more changes coming in the off-season. For now the Packers can just pack it in!
Follow Charles at his personal blog and on Twitter @ProdigyRichey; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio