Minnesota Vikings and 5 Losing Teams That Haven't Stopped Fighting for Wins
"Suck for Luck" has been a popular mantra for fans of a few bottom-feeding NFL teams, but that definitely doesn't mean those franchises have adopted the same attitude.
Well, not all of them.
The Vikings, despite starting a rookie quarterback and a running back who isn't named Adrian Peterson, went punch-for-punch with the Denver Broncos in Week 13.
But they're not the only lovable losers out there, with more than a few teams apparently deciding late in the year that they're happy enough with the quarterbacks they currently have. These five franchises have all ignored the standings with an eye on finishing this season the right way.
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The Vikings are still in the thick of things as far as the race for the No. 1 pick in next April's draft is concerned, but they certainly aren't playing like they want to stay there.
Despite facing a superior team without Adrian Peterson and with a first-year passer, the Vikings nearly pulled off a win Sunday, falling to Denver by three points after Christian Ponder was intercepted by Andre Goodman late in the fourth quarter.
Still, Minnesota showed some tremendous grit today, the kind that makes you think they might be closer to contending for a playoff spot than this year would have you believe.
Toby Gerhart stepped up and rushed for 91 yards. Ponder set a franchise rookie record with 381 passing yards, and Percy Harvin was uncoverable on his way to 156 yards of his own and two touchdowns.
With a trip to Washington looking like the only possible win left on the schedule, the record probably won't show it, but this team is building hope for the future, and first-year coach Leslie Frazier has them playing hard, even at 2-10.
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The Panthers don't have to worry about anyone thinking they've quit. Rookie quarterback Cam Newton has surpassed even the loftiest of expectations in a record-setting first year, and he's currently on a two-game "win streak."
After earning their first divisional W of the season in Week 13, Carolina has now quadrupled their total wins from a season ago, and their roster has been rejuvenated on offense. Steve Smith, once thought to be heading toward mediocrity, has responded with over 1000 receiving yards already, and Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey have been excellent at tight end.
As long as Newton stays healthy, this team will be a tough out for everyone they play, beyond just this season.
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Pete Carroll's club proved to be a stingy one last season, clawing their way into the playoffs with a losing record and then finding a way to knock off the previous Super Bowl champs once they arrived.
But after a 2-6 start in 2011, many thought Carroll's magic had worn off with the loss of Matt Hasselbeck. Not so. The 'Hawks have responded by winning three of their past four, keeping slim playoff hopes alive with wins over the Ravens, Rams and Eagles.
Marshawn Lynch has turned his Wild Card, "Beast Mode" attitude into a weekly ritual, and even Tarvaris Jackson is enjoying some offensive success as more of a game manager. The defense is playing well, too, holding three of their past four opponents under 18 points.
Of their four remaning games, only one comes against a team with a winning record, and if the Seahawks can somehow find a way to clip the Niners, they could finish with winning record of their own.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Say what you want about Todd Haley, but this Chiefs team is still playing as hard as any. Even the arrival, and then immediate injury, of Kyle Orton couldn't keep Kansas City from knocking off a previously-talented Chicago Bears team.
The Chiefs have now lost Matt Cassel at quarterback, Jamaal Charles at tailback, Tony Moeaki at tight end, Eric Berry at safety and others for the season, but they still won't quit.
Last week's near loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been enough evidence on its own, but the Chiefs wanted more. And although they would have preferred Orton, they found a way to win with Tyler Palko and a defense that harassed Caleb Hanie and the Bears into three turnovers.
At 5-7, and as a member of the AFC West, the Chiefs aren't out of this thing yet.
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Unlike the other veteran coaches on this list, Tony Sparano likely has no hope of saving his job. At the end of this season, owner Stephen Ross will likely go in a different direction, hoping to grab a new quarterback and a new coach in one offseason.
But that just makes Miami's sudden energy and effectiveness all the more impressive. The players know he's likely a lame duck coach, and Sparano himself certainly knows it.
They've lost their starting quarterback for the season, and there's no chance at all that they'll make the playoffs, but they've still won four of their past five games, pausing only for a last-second, one-point loss to Dallas.
Week 13's 34-14 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders was easily the most impressive win of any team on this list.