EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. The Minnesota Vikings earned their spot as a playoff team this season, finishing a seven-win turnaround from last year and taking the final four games in must-win fashion to advance to Saturday"s NFC playoff opener at Green Bay.
Minnesota proved it can play with anyone in beating four playoff-hopeful teams over the past four months. And as the NFL has seen in recent years, beware the hot team come playoff time. The New York Giants won three of their final four games last year to resuscitate their playoff hopes and won the Super Bowl. A year earlier, the Packers got hot at the right time in winning the Super Bowl.
The Vikings hope the trend continues. Five things to watch as Minnesota tries to become the latest team to surprise in the playoffs:
1. The maturation of Christian Ponder.
Like it was during the Vikings surprising start, the biggest key to the late-season push was the play of Ponder, Minnesota"s inconsistent second-year starting quarterback. Running bac...