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Vikings Must Adopt Adrian Peterson's Mentality to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

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Vikings Must Adopt Adrian Peterson's Mentality to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Don't tell Adrian Peterson that his 2-8 Minnesota Vikings have no shot at making the postseason in 2013. The NFL's reigning MVP won't have any of it. 

Speaking with Bleacher Report to help promote awareness for life-threatening allergies and the EpiPen device that eventually saved him from a critical reaction, Peterson proclaimed that he still believes the Vikings can qualify for the playoffs this season. 

"You might laugh when I say this, but I feel like we have a shot at making the playoffs," Peterson said. "We have to win out to even have the opportunity, but it starts one week at a time. It's all about getting to the postseason."

The Vikings, mired in a 1-5 stretch over the last six games, travel to Green Bay on Sunday to take on the Packers, who have lost three in a row. If there's a week to get things back on track, it might be this one. 

Forget 2,500 rushing yards, back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons or even a second-straight NFL MVP. Peterson just wants his season extending past Week 17. 

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

"If you're not playing in the postseason, your season is a failure," Peterson said. "That's my big thing; not the records or 2,500 yards. It's getting to the postseason. You play to get to that championship game."

That monumental task begins Sunday in Green Bay, where the Vikings have lost their last four games.

Getting Peterson healthy would be a strong start to any upset bid Minnesota has planned. Following last week's loss in Seattle, both Peterson and head coach Leslie Frazier admitted that a groin pull was negating the running back's ability to burst into space and finish runs. He ended the 41-20 loss with just 61 yards on 20 carries. 

The plan remains for Peterson to rest the groin this week but play against the Packers Sunday. Any thought of missing a week or two because of the Vikings' current record was thrown out, too. 

"I'm going to work through it. If I can roll, I'm rolling," Peterson said. "I don't like sitting out. And 2-8 doesn't deter me from being out there. If I feel like I can play, I'm playing."

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While Peterson works through his own injury issues, the Packers are still dealing with maybe the most important injury of the 2013 season.

Without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who fractured his collarbone against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4, the once-contending Packers are 0-3 and sinking in the NFC playoff race. 

Rodgers will miss another start Sunday, as Scott Tolzien prepares to be the Packers starter for a second straight week. In two mostly full games, Tolzien has averaged over 300 passing yards, but he's also thrown five interceptions. 

Several of Peterson's teammates, including cornerback Chris Cook and receiver Greg Jennings, have sensed a vulnerable Packers team waiting for them this week. 

Jennings told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he feels Green Bay is "a team we feel we can get" without Rodgers playing. 

While Peterson admitted that "you don't want to play a guy like (Rodgers)," he also made it clear that coming into any game with a feeling of overconfidence is a sure way to get beat. 

"It's not a sense of 'OK, we got this one.' This is the NFL. You will lose if you don't come prepared to play," Peterson said. "We've seen Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, they've got wins. We have to be prepared. I'm sure the guy who is stepping in there for Aaron Rodgers, he will be ready to roll this week. We have to take care of our business."

Peterson laid out a rather simple plan for taking care of that business. 

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With a quarterback situation in flux, Peterson believes the Vikings need to control the tempo of the game by establishing the run early. Accomplishing that goal might be easier to do this time around.

While the Packers gave up just 111 total rushing yards in the first meeting with Minnesota, Green Bay has allowed 453 in the three games since. Teams are averaging 151.0 rushing yards against the Packers over the last three weeks, which is the 25th most in the NFL over that span.

And what if the Packers play mostly eight and nine-man boxes against Peterson? No sweat. It's a look Peterson has been facing since his days at Oklahoma, regardless of how effective his quarterback is. 

"When I was in college, I had Jason White at quarterback, a Heisman trophy winner, and I still seen eight and nine in the box," Peterson said. "For me, I'm used to it. It's what I expect. And I've done great against eight- and nine-man fronts. It's the times when I don't do that great that everyone says, 'it's the quarterback, it's the quarterback.' I don't think that has a lot to do with it."

Frazier announced Wednesday that Christian Ponder will receive another start on Sunday, per the Vikings official Twitter account. He threw two interceptions and was later pulled in favor of Matt Cassel against the Seahawks. 

But with the quarterback battle now all but even, Minnesota shouldn't need a superlative performance at the position to beat Green Bay. 

In fact, a steady diet of Peterson and an improved effort from the defense against Tolzien should provide the necessary ingredients for the Vikings to give the Packers a game at Lambeau Field.

Improvement on the defensive side shouldn't be difficult to attain. Just a month ago in Minnesota, the Packers scored 44 points and racked up 464 yards. Green Bay didn't punt the entire game, as the offense scored on seven different drives and Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown. 

Peterson is certain that will change Sunday.

"Last time we played Green Bay, they didn't punt the ball at all," Peterson said. "They will be punting this week. That's one thing I do know for sure."  

And just one more certainty, for good measure: To somehow climb back into the playoff hunt, the Vikings must win Sunday. Only one team—the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in 2010—has ever made the postseason with more than eight losses, and seven wins won't be enough to take the NFC North this season. No wild card team has ever qualified with nine defeats. 

Peterson has overcome some incredible barriers in his NFL career, but vaulting the Vikings to the postseason in 2013 would be his greatest feat yet. 

For more information on Peterson's initiative with Mylan Speciality L.P., please visit www.25YearsofEpiPen.com. Just last summer, Peterson suffered a severe allergic reaction to seafood and needed emergency injections from EpiPen. He now carries two of the injectors with him at all times. Through Mylan Speciality's campaign, Peterson is hoping to further improve preparedness for anaphylaxis

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