EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings don’t like to use the term “must-win” when they look at each week, but as the season progress and the playoffs are still a potential, but fading, possibility they know the importance of winning each game the rest of the season.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield said it after Minnesota’s 21-14 win against the Chicago Bears on Sunday that the Vikings’ playoffs essentially started after the previous week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. Receiver Michael Jenkins echoed the sentiments a day later. Minnesota, as much as it will avoid the phrase, knows it’s in must-win territory if they want to reach the playoffs.
“You know you need to win to get in,” Jenkins said Monday. “We all know the situation. We try not to stress about it, because you’ve got to take it, you know the cliché, one game at a time. You know what you have to do to get in.”
Asked if that means the Vikings must win their remaining three games, Jenkins said, “I mean, that seems to be the case, but you got to win one to win the next one and let things fall where they may. So we’ll see what happens.”
Minnesota hasn’t lost more than two games in a row all season and hasn’t fallen under .500. Yet crucial losses to teams they’re fighting with for playoff positioning has put the Vikings in a precarious position. After the division leaders, Chicago and Seattle currently own the top two spots in the Wild Card standings. Minnesota is tied with Dallas and Washington at 7-6 with the St. Louis Rams at 6-6-1 and Tampa Bay at 6-7.
Winning the final three games and finishing at 10-6 would likely be enough to grab a playoff spot, though the Vikings would need help. Yet, they know none of that matters if they don’t take care of their own business.
“Our playoffs started last week after we lost to Green Bay,” Winfield said after the game. “We knew we had four left. We’re going to need some help to get in, of course. But if we don’t win, we don’t have a chance.
And winning on the road is the next, and biggest, challenge. Minnesota is 6-1 at home and 1-5 on the road. The Vikings travel to St. Louis next, followed by a road game at 11-1 Houston and the regular-season finale at home against Green Bay.
“Bottom line we’re talking about winning the next game,” defensive end Brian Robison said Monday. “Nothing matters if we don’t win the next three. So it starts with St. Louis this week. We’ll let the playoff picture decide itself at the end of the year.”
Jefferson to be evaluated during the week: Cornerback A.J. Jefferson suffered a concussion during Sunday’s win and coach Leslie Frazier wasn’t sure Monday when Jefferson would be able to return.
Jefferson will need to go through the concussion testing and be cleared before returning after suffering the concussion while colliding with a pair of teammates while trying to make a tackle Sunday. Jefferson was motionless on the ground after the hit, before later getting up and walking off on his own power after seeing medical attention.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens with him as he goes through the NFL protocol regarding concussions,” Frazier said.
Frazier added that if Jefferson isn’t able to play Sunday, Marcus Sherels would be the next cornerback to step up. In that case, rookie Josh Robinson would likely start alongside Winfield, with Sherels working in the nickel. Frazier said Brandon Burton could also be in the mix.
Cornerback Chris Cook is nearing his return from his broken arm, but isn’t eligible to return until the following week against Houston. Cook returned to practice last week and appears as if he’ll be ready to activate once he’s eligible.
“I think we’ll be able to get him back for the Houston game,” Frazier said. “He’ll be able to practice more extensively this week. And then he’s eligible to play when we get to Houston.”
Team wants 2,000 yards for Peterson: Running back Adrian Peterson has downplayed his chances for 2,000 yards, saying everything will work out if he keeps doing his part to help Minnesota win games. Peterson said he would like to get to the coveted mark – he’s 400 yards away with three games left – but teammates also want to see him get there.
“I think it means a lot to the team,” said fullback Jerome Felton, who has sprung Peterson on many of his big runs. “You kind of hear guys in the locker room talking about it, you hear the media talk about it a little bit. It’s within reach and I feel like it’s something that he’s capable of doing and I think he wants it, so we want it for him. I think that if he gets 2000 yards, that means we’re doing good things as an offense and that helps us win. That’s ultimately the most important thing.”
Peterson has also mentioned how satisfying it would be to get to the all-time single-season record of 2,105 set in 1984 by Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickers. Frazier compared the two Monday.
“I know (then Los Angeles Rams coach John) Robinson gave it to him a lot and we’re doing the same thing with Adrian,” Frazier said. “Both guys were extremely fast and very motivated to run the ball and run it well. I think the styles are somewhat similar, but the power that Adrian runs with combined with the speed is rare. I think of Eric, I think of more of a guy who was so graceful and getting on the edge and outrunning people. But you see Adrian running through tacklers, stiff-arming guys, running around guys, juking guys, he’s so rare. Eric was a great runner, a Hall of Famer, and Adrian is on his way to being a Hall of Famer as well.”
Vikings add practice squad tight end: Minnesota signed tight end LaMark Brown, a former Minnesota State-Mankato player, to the practice squad Monday.
Brown, 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, was one of three players who tried out for the team on Friday. In replacing leading receiver Percy Harvin on the active roster, the Vikings promoted offensive tackle Troy Kropog to the active roster. Brown will take the open spot on the practice squad following Kropog’s promotion.
Last year at Minnesota State-Mankato, Brown caught 31 passes for 405 yards and five touchdowns. He went undrafted this spring and has spent time with the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, but hasn’t appeared in a game.