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Vikings should ride Peterson, stop throwing away season

In the old days, when a great running back could carry a team a long way, Adrian Peterson would have made the Minnesota Vikings the envy of the rest of the NFL. Instead, as it is now, he’s almost lost in a purple haze.

Peterson can be an unstoppable force, swatting away defenders like flies the way Jim Brown did in those black-and-white highlight films. We’ve seen him do it.

We just don’t see it as much anymore. Now we see Donovan McNabb flinging hopeless passes as the Vikings throw away game after game in the fourth quarter en route to 0-4.

Peterson leads the NFC with 376 yards rushing on 81 carries, but he’s basically forgotten. The hot topic in Minnesota is McNabb and whether the veteran should be benched in favor of rookie Christian Ponder or a free-agent journeyman such as Johnny Utah.

What the Vikings need to do, before they get to 0-6 and six feet under, is ignore the league’s passing trend and ride Peterson for 25 to 30 carries. He’s their best bet to finally get to Victory Lane.

Minnesota, in a division owned by Green Bay and Detroit, is already buried. But the Vikings should not be this bad, and they should cover as 2½-point home favorites over Arizona on Sunday.

The Cardinals are being misled by another quarterback castoff from Philadelphia. Kevin Kolb has five touchdown passes with four interceptions and has lost three close games.

Kolb will look to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to cut up the Minnesota secondary. But if the Vikings, with their fifth-ranked rush defense, force Arizona to be one-dimensional, Kolb can be pressured into inaccurate throws.

A negative for Minnesota is Antoine Winfield, one of the league’s most physical cornerbacks, is doubtful with a neck injury.

McNabb’s performance last week in a 22-17 loss at Kansas City was not miserable. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. But when the game was his to win in the fourth quarter, he folded.

Winning quarterbacks make the key plays, which is what the NFL is all about now. On third downs, McNabb is completing 37.1 percent of his passes. He’s not making anything happen with his feet, either, getting sacked 10 times.

McNabb’s margin for error is gone. If he plays well and relies more on Peterson, I’ll like the Vikings’ chances.

Four more plays for Week 5 (Home team in CAPS):

■ Eagles (-2½) over BILLS: Philadelphia’s many problems have little to do with Michael Vick, who accounted for 491 total yards last week and could do similar damage to Buffalo’s 27th-ranked defense. Expect the Eagles’ losing streak to stop at three games.

■ Raiders (+6) over TEXANS: Darren McFadden’s powerful running is turning Oakland into a tougher team. The Raiders’ weaknesses on defense won’t be exposed as much with wideout Andre Johnson missing from Houston’s passing attack.

■ STEELERS (-3) over Titans: Pittsburgh has the No. 2-ranked defense, and Mike Tomlin is not a coach who uses injuries as an excuse and lets things slide. Tennessee still has a lot to prove. At minus-3 and minus-120, the line looks cheap on the Steelers at home.

■ FALCONS (+6) over Packers: No one is eager to bet against Aaron Rodgers right now. But in road victories over Carolina and Chicago, Green Bay did not dominate. Matt Ryan is tough to beat in Atlanta, so this one should be close.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

Season: 10-7-3

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at 702-387-2907 or myoumans@reviewjournal.com.

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