EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings players returned to Winter Park on Tuesday after a "mini bye" with three games left in the regular season and a mindset of earning the opportunity to play more.
Minnesota (8-5) will start its push for the playoffs by hosting Chicago (5-8) at noon (CT) Sunday at the University of Minnesota.
After the Vikings pushed the Cardinals to the brink in a 23-20 loss on Thursday Night Football, Head Coach Mike Zimmer gave players the period of rest and recovery.
The team's chances for its first postseason berth since 2012 received some help with results over the weekend, but the Vikings don't want to rely on outside influencers down the stretch.
"We've got to take care of business and control what we can control," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "That's win this game on Sunday. We can't worry about the next game or who plays, who wins and who loses. We've got to worry about what this team does, and it starts on Sunday."
Veteran defensive end Brian Robison said "it's playoff intensity the next three weeks. It has to be."
The Vikings and Bears have gone 3-3 since the teams met on Nov. 1, a game that was decided by a 36-yard walk-off field goal by Blair Walsh for the Vikings first victory at Soldier Field since 2007.
Chicago's losses have been by two against Denver, six in overtime against San Francisco and three this past weekend at home to Washington in that stretch.
"We've got to empty the tank in order to win this game," defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. "Great situation. We've been playing good and fighting toward the end of these games. We've got to hold on a little stronger at the end. We've got to put up a fight and give it everything we've got."
Minnesota bounced back from a home loss to Seattle and challenged an 11-2 Arizona team despite missing four starters on defense and starting a franchise record six rookies. Now, it's about moving on from that loss because moral victories aren't calculated in any playoff probability.
"How can we learn from it? We learned we play a lot better when we're more focused," 10-year linebacker Chad Greenway said. "In the Seattle game, we just kind of weren't doing what we do, and it showed in the score."
Scenarios abound: There are several scenarios through which the Vikings can secure a playoff berth as early as this weekend, the NFL announced Tuesday. Four begin with a win, followed by a combination of other factors, and three include a tie, which has only happened twice in the long-running series.
"At the end of the day, we still have a chance to do what we set out to do," Terence Newman said. "Nobody is in panic mode. There was a time earlier in the year where we were 2-2 and people were like, 'Hey, these guys are done,' and we put a pretty good win streak together. We still have a chance to do what we want to do. We've just got to correct some of the mistakes we made. I hate to use this but the way we came out and played last week lets us know, hey, we're able to play with good, quality football teams but we didn't get it done.
"Moving forward, we've got to play with the same emotion, the same chip on our shoulder and seal the deal, not make mistakes we've made," Newman continued.
Sharrif's 'open letter' to Linval:Floyd has been tasked with starting at nose tackle in each of the past two games while Linval Joseph is recovering from a foot injury. Floyd is listed at 311 pounds, compared to 329 for Joseph.
"I've been talking to him every day, 'Please come back. I understand. I'll give you my toe,' or 'At least give me 10 of your pounds because, boy, I respect your job,' " Floyd said. "Outside of that, I'm praying for him, and hopefully he can get back when he's healthy. I've just got to man up and do what the team is asking me to do."
Nose tackles can face double teams more frequently than the other defensive tackle spot, and it gets pretty rough in there, Floyd said.
"Every bad thing you can think of is nose," Floyd said.
Injury reports Wednesday: In addition to Floyd, safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo and linebacker Anthony Barr missed the game against the Cardinals. The Vikings will release their first injury report of the week on Wednesday.