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MINNEAPOLIS -- And down the stretch they come.
With 75 percent of the season in the books, Minnesota has taken control of the NFC North. There have been plenty of ups and downs already in the Black and Blue division, but the Vikings' dominating second-half performance at the Metrodome suggests they are capable of pulling off their first division title since the 2000 season.
Most important, the Vikings are the only team that can win the division without help. They have the toughest remaining schedule, including home games against Atlanta (8-4) and the N.Y. Giants (11-1) to end the season. But after consecutive double-digit victories over Jacksonville and the Bears, you would have to say the Vikings are the only North team playing their best football during the most important part of the season.
The Bears will be left to wonder what might have happened if quarterback Kyle Orton hadn't thrown three second-half interceptions. But no matter what the explanation, the Bears will now need some help -- namely, from the Vikings -- to win a division they have led for most of the season.