Taking care of business

Vikings can claim division with a win at lowly Arizona

Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There is plenty going against the Minnesota Vikings as they go to Arizona for the regular-season finale with the NFC North title up in the air.

"I am sure I don't have to bring up all of the negatives because you guys will take care of that for me," Minnesota coach Mike Tice told reporters early in the week.

Well, here they are:


Minnesota has lost to the New York Giants, San Diego and Oakland, teams with a combined 11-34 record. The Cardinals have played well at home, beating Green Bay, San Francisco and Cincinnati. In its most recent home game, Arizona lost to St. Louis 30-27 on a last-second field goal. The Vikings have lost 14 of their last 15 games that were played outdoors and are 3-6 on the road this season.

Finally, Minnesota is 3-6 after a 6-0 start.

Still, these are the Vikings, the team with the No. 1 offense in the NFL going against an Arizona team that has lost seven straight to fall to 3-13, tied with San Diego for worst record in the NFL.

"They have the No. 1 offense after 15 weeks for a reason: "They're good," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. "They have three backs that can hurt you in a lot of ways. Randy Moss is Randy Moss, and anybody associated with this league knows what that means. They have a big-time quarterback."

Minnesota might look at this as a "home" game, because at least half of the 43,000 who will attend will be Vikings' fans -- as was the case when Green Bay and St. Louis came to 73,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium.

Arizona has a core of about 20,000 fans at home games, supporting a Cardinals team that is last in the NFL in scoring and in points allowed.

The highly likable McGinnis, extremely popular with his players, could get the ax as early as Monday.

"I block it out," Arizona offensive tackle L.J. Shelton said of the possibility this is his last game with McGinnis. "It's kind of tough when you see a story in the paper naming the top candidates for the job and I've still got a game to play for coach Mac."


Fans also could be seeing the last game for NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, who said this week he will decide in a month or two whether to return for a second season with Arizona.

With second-year pro Josh McCown in his third consecutive start at quarterback, the Cardinals' hopes rest on a ball-control offense that relies on the running of Marcel Shipp -- with Smith his backup -- and the receiving of rookie Anquan Boldin.

Minnesota is tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North, but owns the tiebreaker if they both finish with the same record. The Packers host Denver on Sunday.

"We want to make sure we take care of our business," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "We don't want to sneak in. We want to win our division like we set out to do in the beginning of the year, even before that, way back to minicamp."

The game will mark a triumphant return for ex-Cardinal Corey Chavous, who moved from cornerback to safety for Minnesota and earned his first Pro Bowl berth. Chavous was one of the most popular Cardinals, but left as a free agent because Arizona signed Duane Starks. Starks has barely played the last two seasons because of injuries.

Chavous should get a few shots at Boldin, who despite the struggles of his team has broken the NFL rookie record for receptions with 96. He needs 124 yards Sunday to break the league rookie record for yards receiving of 1,473 set by Bill Groman of Houston in 1960.

"He has a certain amount of confidence that a lot of guys don't have that come into the league," Chavous said of Boldin. "I think he expected to do well."

The Vikings hope to bring that same attitude to Arizona, rather than dwelling on the negatives that hint this could be a tough game.


"We're going to go out to Phoenix and put on a show," said Onterrio Smith, who has rushed for 294 yards the last two games. "Everybody's real fired up about it, real motivated. The whole season has boiled down to one game, so we have to go out and take it."

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