The Vikings are well-represented among the top five vote-getters for the Pro Bowl at their…
Vikings' leaders say no speeches needed
Back in September, when the Vikings escaped the home opener with a 26-23 overtime win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and then lost 23-20 at Indianapolis the following week, Antoine Winfield gave a speech about the importance of every game that was credited weeks down the road for helping inspire a young team. The Vikings followed with a 24-13 upset win against the San Francisco 49ers and their first divisional win in 11 games with a 20-13 road victory at Detroit. One week later, they beat Tennessee to claim the Vikings' first three-game winning streak since the middle of their NFC Championship Game-bound 2009 season.
Since then, however, the Vikings have gone 2-4 and not taken advantage of NFC opponents like Washington, Tampa Bay and Seattle. Their loss last week at Chicago was never close – they fell behind 25-3 by halftime – and their playoff chances are getting thinner with each passing week and the toughest second-half schedule in the NFC.
So, after losing three of out of the last four games, is a return of the rousing Winfield speech needed?
"No, there's no need for that. No need at all," said their 35-year-old cornerback. "Guys understand the importance of this game. Everyone is going to prepare. We need to go out there and execute."
"This game," of course, is the first of two games against the division rival Green Bay Packers, who are one game ahead of the Vikings at 7-4. If the playoffs started today, the Vikings would be on the outside as the eighth seed in the NFC and the Packers would make the playoffs as the wild card entrant and the fifth seed in the six-team format.
Leslie Frazier even went so far as to ask his players if they needed a motivational speech for a game with so many implications. He's with Winfield – no additional motivation needed.
"I don't think there's any rallying that needs to be done. When you're playing a division rival – we've talked about that (Wednesday) morning – those guys understand the implications of what has to get done," Frazier said. "At this level, if you can't get excited about this opportunity, whoof, you're in the wrong business."
The Vikings haven't beaten the Packers since a 38-26 win in Brett Favre's return to Lambeau Field on Nov. 1, 2009. Last year at Lambeau Field, the Packers blew the doors off the Vikings with a 45-7 win.
That happened in the middle of Minnesota's miserable 3-13 season. This year, they are still in playoff contention and looking forward to the possibility of improving their chances for the postseason.
"We know what's on the line right now. We're 6-5, we have five more ballgames to even have a chance to put ourselves in position to get into the playoffs. It's a really important one for us – Green Bay Packers on the road, in the division, so pretty much a must-win," Winfield said.
"… If we get this one, we go ahead of them in the division. We all understand the importance. It's all about us. The players need to go out there, execute and perform."
With Seattle and Tampa Bay having the same record (6-5) as the Vikings and having beaten Minnesota, the Vikings need to start piling up wins in the final five weeks. That won't be easy going to Green Bay, hosting Chicago, then at St. Louis and Houston before returning home for the regular-season finale against Green Bay.
Of those teams, only St. Louis (4-6-1) doesn't have a winning record.
The Vikings' upcoming schedule and the fact that they missed opportunities to improve their standing in the middle of season has some fans upset at the lost opportunity, but Frazier is careful to keep the negative thoughts at arm's length, even if the Packers are favored by nine points.
"The people around you sometimes can drain your energy and make you feel like things are worse than they are," Frazier said. "We have a lot of young guys on our team who have never really been in this environment and don't really understand the NFL and how it works. But I'd be surprised if this doesn't go down to the last weekend of the season. We've just got to keep playing and not lose sight of one game at a time. No game is bigger than this game.
"We'll be ready to play. It's a matter of are we good enough to get it done on the road. But I just don't sense they'll be lackadaisical about their approach this week."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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