Out of Their Hands

Five straight wins gave the Minnesota Vikings a chance to control their own destiny. It only took one loss to put their fate into another team's hands.

The Vikings will need to rebound from a disappointing loss and get some outside help to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons when they visit the stumbling Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Minnesota -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 41.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Minnesota –3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Losing six of their first nine games appeared to end any chance the Vikings (8-7) had at making the playoffs this season. Minnesota, however, reeled off five consecutive wins to set up a showdown with another wild-card hopeful team - the Washington Redskins - on Sunday night.

Needing only a win at home to wrap up the NFC's final postseason berth, the Vikings instead fell behind 25-0 and a late rally fell short in a 32-21 loss.

"Obviously this hurts, because what you want is to be in control, and we lost that control," linebacker Ben Leber said. "Now we'll just have to put this game behind us and think about the big picture here."

Because of the loss, Minnesota must now win at Denver and hope Washington loses at home to Dallas on Sunday. The Cowboys, however, have already locked up the top seed in the conference and figure to rest star receiver Terrell Owens while limiting quarterback Tony Romo, who is nursing a bruised right thumb.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was asked how he felt about the Cowboys resting starters in a game that still holds meaning to his team.

"That's the nature of the business," he said. "They are looking at I'm sure being able to give it their best shot in their playoff run. We've done it before; when you have nothing to gain in terms of positioning you kind of weigh where you think you're going to be freshness-wise and sharpness-wise to what you need to do in the game you're playing."

Although the Broncos (6-9) have lost four of five and are headed for their first losing season since 1999, the Vikings will have to be a lot better than they were against Washington.

Second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was 25-for-41 for 220 yards and one touchdown, but also threw two interceptions. Minnesota faced a 25-0 deficit before Jackson was able to get the offense moving,

"I take the blame totally for that," Jackson said. "It's my fault."

Jackson has thrown five interceptions in his last two games after throwing two in his previous seven contests.

Pro Bowl-bound rookie Adrian Peterson struggled for the third straight game, rushing for only 27 yards on nine carries. In the last three weeks, he has averaged 36 yards a game.

Peterson had 1,036 yards rushing in his first eight games, putting him on pace to shatter Eric Dickerson's rookie record of 1,808 yards and become the first running back to top 2,000 yards since Jamal Lewis in 2003.

The three-game slump, though, has left Peterson with 1,305 yards, the second-most in Vikings history. Robert Smith has the record, with 1,521 yards in 2000.

"Well, he's not a secret anymore," Childress said. "We're going to have do some work in terms of, if they're going to have an extra guy in there, we're going to have to do a few different things in terms of running the football and throwing the football."

Even with a win Sunday, Denver is assured of its worst season since it finished 6-10 in 1999, and only its second losing season in the 13-year Mike Shanahan era. The Broncos had been the only team in the league with a .500 record or better in every season since 2000.

Denver, which has lost four straight against NFC opponents, has managed 16 total points in its last two games - road losses to Houston and San Diego.

The Broncos were held without a touchdown for the second time this season - both against the Chargers - in a 23-3 loss at San Diego on Monday.

"We had very high hopes coming into this year," safety John Lynch said. "It's been an extremely frustrating year. And to get whupped a couple of times by a division opponent is no fun, and you're out there trying to do everything you can to win."

Jay Cutler was sacked four times, lost a fumble, threw two interceptions and completed only 14-of-32 passes for 155 yards in Monday's loss.

Cutler has been much more effective at home this season, throwing for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 69.5 completion percentage. On the road, he has thrown for six TDs and eight picks with a 57.3 completion percentage.

One of the bright spots for Denver this season has been the play of second-year receiver Brandon Marshall, who is eight catches shy of becoming the first Bronco with 100 since Rod Smith had 113 in 2001. Marshall has 27 catches for 297 yards and two TDs in his last three games.

The Vikings have won two straight and five of the last seven meetings against the Broncos.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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