MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings could claim an NFC Central title with a victory over the Detroit Lions Thursday, but only with a little help Sunday from Buffalo.
"We have to get by Detroit," Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "That's the next challenge. That's all there is right now."
The Vikings need a loss by Tampa Bay, which plays host to the Bills on Sunday, as well as a victory over the Lions in a night game Thursday to claim their fourth Central title under coach Denny Green.
Otherwise, it's probably just a matter of time.
"You know you're going (to the playoffs), but it doesn't do you any good to be looking clear to the other end," Green said. "All you've got to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving ahead.
"There's going to be some rocks, some big boulders you're going to have to avoid. If you're looking too far ahead, you're not going to avoid them."
The Lions (8-4) could lose Thursday and still finish in a tie for the NFC Central lead at 11-5 if they won out and the Vikings (10-2) lost their remaining games. But Minnesota, with a pair of victories over Detroit, still would own the tiebreaker advantage over the Lions.
Because the Bucs (6-5) and Vikings split regular-season games, the two would have to go to the NFL's third tiebreaker -- records against common opponents -- if Tampa won and Minnesota lost their remaining games.
The Vikings' schedule is difficult after Thursday, with games against St. Louis, Green Bay and Indianapolis. The Lions also play Green Bay, the New York Jets and Chicago. After their game against the Bills, the Bucs finish with Dallas, Miami, St. Louis and Green Bay.
The Vikings might reach the playoffs from their homes or on the field, but they are not worrying about worst-case scenarios.
"It doesn't do us any good to worry about who we're playing two weeks from now," Green said. "All we want to do is be a better football team today than we were on Thursday.
"We all know what we want. We've probably said it a hundred times: We want to be world champions. I'll bet our players have said it a hundred times. I've said it a hundred times."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.