Jim Souhan explains why today’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers is big, but won’t spoil the season if the Vikings can’t pull off the win:
The Packers will play at the Metrodome/Mall of America Field/Future Demolition Site Sunday in the biggest game for the Vikings franchise since their epic loss in the 2009 NFC title game in New Orleans, and the biggest game at the Dome since the Vikings whipped the Cowboys in the ’09 division playoffs.
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It’s a big game because a victory puts the Vikings in the playoffs and dents the Packers’ aura of divisional invincibility, but in a lot of ways it’s more dessert than main course. In a lot of ways, the Vikings already have reached their goals for the season.
Four months ago, the Wilfs didn’t know whether Leslie Frazier could succeed as a head coach. Now Frazier is in line for a contract extension. While the Colts’ duo of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians has helped revitalize their franchise, they’ve also won in a mediocre division and because the team tanked last season, while Frazier has had to slap a lot of mortar and super glue on his roster to win games. Frazier is as deserving as anyone of coach-of-the-year votes.
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Four months ago, the Vikings coordinators were unproven, and a threat to Frazier’s job security. He had replaced Fred Pagac with the highly anonymous Alan Williams, and had invested great faith in Bill Musgrave’s ability to salvage Christian Ponder and establish a power-running offense. Williams has coached a defense that stuffed San Francisco and Houston, and Musgrave and his assistants have found creative ways to open holes for Peterson while coaxing competent play down the stretch from Ponder.
Four months ago, the schedule offered a few easy victories but threatened to crush the team down the stretch. It was hard to find any analysts outside the organization who believed that this team was capable of more than six or seven victories, or of surviving December. They enter Sunday’s game on a three-game winning streak, with their victory at Houston last Sunday providing their most impressive road victory since Brett Favre beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2009.