Minnesota is hoping to make a much more significant dent in the NFC's postseason race this time around and they will start by playing host to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The Vikings already have a leg up on how they fared in 2008 because this time around they not only won the NFC North but also earned the second seed and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it.
That means the Vikings have had time to get significant rest and forget the fact they finished the regular season by losing three of their final five games. Coach Brad Childress gave his players five days off last week and the Vikings eased back into their work schedule this week by holding light practices on Sunday and Monday before getting their regular day off Tuesday.
The real work and preparation for the Cowboys started Wednesday as the Vikings got back to full practices and began installing a game plan for a team that they faced in the preseason but not the regular season.
Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen is among those excited to be back in the playoffs.
"I don't know how to describe it," he said. "That first series of the game is pretty intense and then it usually calms down a little bit and you start playing. But playoff football is like that first series the entire game. The crowd, there's an energy level about it and an intensity level. This is fun."
It should be made that much more fun by the fact the Vikings are playing a red-hot Cowboys team that many in the national media expect to advance. The Cowboys have won four in a row and are coming off back-to-back one-sided victories over the Eagles. The most recent came last Saturday in a first-round playoff game.
Not surprisingly, the Vikings figure to use all of this as a rallying point. Minnesota, after all, finished the season with a 12-4 record and is the higher seed.
Nose tackle Pat Williams already got the ball rolling by comparing the Cowboys to the suburban rich team and the Vikings as the team from the ‘hood.' Williams' point being that the Cowboys play in owner Jerry Jones' billion-dollar palace in Arlington, Texas. The Vikings, meanwhile, play in the outdated Metrodome, much to the dismay of owner Zygi Wilf.
"They have to come down to this ‘hood' here," Williams said. "They have to come to Zygi-hood. You've got Jerry's World down there and we've got our old stadium in the ‘hood' down here. That's all we've got is Zygi-hood. That's it."
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe also joined in the fun, encouraging people to get on the Cowboys' bandwagon. "That's good," he said. "All the people on the bandwagon aren't going to be on the field. We're going to be on the field. They're coming to the hood. This ain't all that high tech (stuff). They're coming to an old-school stadium, all right? Old-school Vikings."
SERIES HISTORY: 27th meeting. Dallas leads the series 14-12. Minnesota is 10-10 in the regular season against Dallas and 2-4 in the playoffs. The Vikings, however, won their last postseason meeting with the Cowboys, earning a 27-10 victory in the 1999 NFC wild-card round game at the Metrodome.
BY THE NUMBERS: 22 — Playoff games played and starts for Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, the most among all current players on the roster.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You can gain a lot of experience from that, just knowing the speed and just the energy that when you walk on the field knowing it's a playoff game and everything is on the line. You lose and you're out. Definitely a lot more excitement, a lot more energy. So gaining that from last year should help us out this year." — Linebacker Ben Leber on how playing against Philadelphia in the opening round of the postseason in 2008 should help prepare the Vikings for this season's playoffs. The Vikings lost to the Eagles, 26-14.