It would appear as though the long wait for the return of Antoine Winfield from a foot injury is finally over. The NFL’s official website is quoting unnamed sources that Winfield will suit up for today’s game with Cincinnati.
Earlier in the week, Bengals enigmatic wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said he was looking forward to lining up opposite Winfield, but didn’t sound overly optimistic at the prospect, since he was of the belief that Winfield wouldn’t play.
His foot injury has been shrouded in mystery since it was suffered against Baltimore in Week 6. It was clear he would miss the Pittsburgh game the following week, but when reports surfaced that Winfield had suffered a broken bone in his foot and would be out four to weeks. Winfield emphatically denied the report and there was speculation that he would play at Green Bay Nov. 1. When he didn’t, the conventional wisdom was that he would return after the bye, but the Vikings have played four games since the bye without Winfield in the lineup.
It is unclear whether Winfield will start or not or be used as a nickel corner to start the game, but with both Cedric Griffin and Karl Paymah listed as questionable with injuries of their own, having Winfield back will be a welcome sight for the Vikings defense in what has developed into a critical game for the Vikings to retain their cushion for the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round postseason bye.
VIKINGS-BENGALS BY THE NUMBERS
With a win Sunday, the Bengals will clinch the AFC North division title. The Vikings can clinch the NFC North with a win and a Green Bay loss at Chicago.
The Vikings have the fifth-rated offense in the NFL (11th rushing, 9th passing) and the eighth-ranked defense (3rd rushing, 21st passing). Cincinnati has the 18th-ranked offense (6th rushing, 21st passing) and the fourth-rated defense (2nd rushing, 12th passing).
The Vikings are averaging 383.8 yards a game on offense (260.2 passing, 123.6 rushing). The Bengals are averaging 331.9 yards a game (198 passing, 133.9 rushing).
Defensively, Minnesota is allowing 311.4 yards a game (227.2 passing, 84.3 rushing). Cincinnati is allowing 293.3 yards a game (211.5 passing, 81.8 rushing).
The Vikings are seventh in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-7 (20 takeaways, 13 giveaways). The Bengals are tied for 11th a plus-1 (20 takeaways, 19 giveaways).
Minnesota’s 13 giveaways are tied for second-least in the league, behind only San Diego with 12.
While the Bengals are sixth in the league in rushing yards (1,607), their 4.0-yard rushing average is 23rd in the league.
The Vikings are first in interceptions per passes thrown on offense.
The Vikings offense is third in third-down efficiency, making good on 82 of 173 chances (47.4 percent). The Bengals are 12th at 41.4 percent (72 of 174). The league average conversion rate is 38.5 percent. .
The Bengals defense is No. 1 in stopping third downs, allowing just 49 of 147 third downs to be converted (32.9 percent). The Vikings are third at 33.3 percent (50 of 152).
The Bengals have not allowed a run of 25 yards yet this season on 257 opponent rushing attempts.
The Vikings defense leads the league in sacks with 40.
Minnesota’s red zone offense is fourth in the league with a 60 percent touchdown rate – 30 touchdowns in 50 red zone chances. The Bengals are 11th at 53.8 percent – 21 touchdowns in 39 chances.
Only two offenses have been in the red zone more often than the Vikings – New Orleans (57) and New England (51) and only the Saints have scored more touchdowns (34).
The Vikings are second in the league in red zone defense, allowing just 11 touchdowns on 31 opponent trips inside the 20 (35.5 percent). The Bengals are tied for fifth at 44.4 percent – 12 touchdowns on 27 chances.
Only the Redskins have a better red zone defense than the Vikings, having allowed just eight touchdowns in 29 red zone chances.
The league average for starting position following a kickoff is the 26.3-yard line. The Vikings are first in that category with an average starting position of the 31.6-yard line. The Bengals are 17th with an average start at the 25.8-yard line.
Brett Favre has four 300-yard passing days this season. Carson Palmer has none. The Vikings have allowed two 300-yard passers while Cincinnati has allowed just one.
Both teams have a receiver who has topped 100 yards three times – Chad Ochocinco for the Bengals and Sidney Rice for the Vikings. Percy Harvin also has a 100-yard receiving game for Minnesota. The Bengals have allowed a surprising six 100-yard receivers, while the Vikings have allowed four.
The Bengals have been amazing at producing 100-yard rushers. They have a 100-yard rusher in seven games – Cedric Benson five times and Larry Johnson and Bernard Scott once each. Adrian Peterson has all three 100-yard rushing games for the Vikings this season.
Don’t expect to see a 100-yard rusher today. The Bengals have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this year and the Vikings have allowed one since November 2007.
Favre is at or near the top of every major passing category. He is ninth in attempts (403), fourth in completions (278), fourth in completion percentage (69.0), eighth in yards (3,149), second in touchdowns (26), tied for second in interceptions (5), first in interception percentage (1.2 percent) and second in passer rating (108.5).
Palmer has been pretty pedestrian numbers-wise across the board. He ranks 18th in attempts (365), 17th in completions (222), 20th in completion percentage (60.8), 17th in yards (2,547), tied for 13th in touchdowns (16), tied for 18th in interceptions (10), 19th in interception percentage (2.7 percent) and 18th in passer rating (85.0).
Favre is second in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating at 119.9, trailing only Drew Brees of New Orleans (123.3). Palmer is a dismal 29th, with a passer rating of 69.5.
Favre is fifth in the league in third-down passer rating (102.5). Palmer is 10th at 91.0.
Adrian Peterson is third in the league in rushing at 1,103 yards, trailing Steven Jackson of St. Louis by 129 yards and Chris Johnson of Tennessee by 406. Cedric Benson is seventh in the league with 969 yards, despite missing all or part of two games.
Peterson has converted first downs on 11 of 13 third-and-1 situations. His 13 attempts are tied for the league lead with Knowshon Moreno of Denver and his 11 conversions lead the league.
Rice is tied for 16th in the league with 63 receptions. Ochocinco is 19th with 62 and Percy Harvin is 38th with 48 catches.
Rice has a good chance of winning the league receiving yardage title. With four games to play, he has 1,036 yards – trailing only Randy Moss of the Patriots by 22 yards, Wes Welker of New England by 17 yards and Houston’s Andre Johnson by eight yards. Ochocinco is 12th in the league with 910 yards and Harvin is 34th at 681 yards.
Both teams have a slew of receivers among the league leaders in third-down receptions. Harvin is tied for fourth with 23, Chester Taylor is tied for sixth with 21 and Rice is tied for 24th with 16. For the Bengals, Ochocinco is tied for 19th with 17 third-down receptions, Andre Caldwell is tied for 24th with 16 and running back Brian Leonard is tied for 33rd with 14.
Peterson is tied for second in the league for scoring among non-kickers with 72 points on 12 touchdowns. He trails only Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 78 points on 13 TDs. Visanthe Shiancoe is tied for 10th with 54 points (nine TDs) and Harvin is tied for 18th with 48 points (eight TDs). Benson and Ochocinco are tied for 32nd place with 36 points (six TDs) to lead the Bengals.
Ryan Longwell is tied for fourth in the league in scoring with 99 points. Shayne Graham of Cincinnati is 17th with 78 points.
Peterson is fourth in the league with total yards with 1,382 (1,103 rushing, 279 passing) – 450 behind league leader Chris Johnson. Benson is 14th with 1,050 yards (969 rushing, 81 receiving), Rice is 16th with 1,036 (all receiving) and Ochocinco is 28th with 918 (910 receiving, 8 rushing).
Peterson leads the league in first down with 68 – four more than both Johnson and Jackson. Benson is tied for 17th with 49, Ochocinco is tied for 19th with 48. Harvin is tied for 30th with 44 and Rice is tied for 32nd with 43.
Harvin is third in the league in kickoff return average at 29.0 yards per return.
Cincinnati’s Johnathan Joseph is tied for fifth in the league with five interceptions.
Jared Allen is second in the league with 12.5 sacks. Despite being out for more than half the season, Cincinnati’s Antwan Odom is still tied for 11th in sacks with eight. Ray Edwards is tied for 19th with 6.5 sacks and Kevin Williams is tied for 24th with six.
Three Vikings are tied for ninth in the league in defensive fumble recoveries with two – Allen, Chad Greenway and Heath Farwell.
The Bengals have outscored their opponents 156-91 in the first half of games, but just 98-96 after halftime.
The Vikings are one of just four teams in the league that are undefeated at home, joining the Saints, Colts and Patriots at 6-0 in front of the home fans.