Our beloved Minnesota Vikings have clinched the NFC North with plenty of time to spare. Yesterday’s 34-7 rout of the Bungles improved the team to 11 wins on the season, a mark mathematically unattainable for the Motor City Kitties and the Green Bay fudge-Packers. There’s a ton to be excited about; Shurmur’s offense made some big plays, Keenum protected the ball and the defense made an example of Andy Dalton’s sorry ass. A dominant performance such as yesterday’s was exactly what this team needed following their first loss since October. The Vikings now hold the number two seed in the NFC and are guaranteed the first round bye if they win out. Regardless, The Ship will host its first ever NFL playoff game, just weeks before it hosts Super Bowl 52.
The team, organization and fans have a lot to be proud of considering pre-season expectations and early season injuries. What this Vikings team has accomplished is nothing short of impressive, but it’s nothing to feel too great about either. Just ask Mike Zimmer, who said it’s important to go out and win your division, but this team’s goal is far from accomplished.
I could waste your (my) time talking about the plays, the yards and the dominant fashion in which we imposed our will on Cincinnati yesterday but in all honesty, you have to beat a bad team like that by a lot at home. I think Zimmer and much of the fan base expected yesterday’s outcome. I’m not gonna talk about the next two games either. If you ask me, the Packers and Bears both suck and we should easily win out to finish 13-3. When was the last time we won more than 12 in a season? ’98?
Instead I’m only looking forward, as should you. We’re 11-3, we’re going to the dance and the Packers were all but eliminated by Carolina (ATL can seal the deal tonight with a win over TB). As much as we’d all love to relish in the glowing light of division supremacy, I have enough NFC North Champions shirts (‘08 is my favorite, Believe in Now). And that’s exactly what Vikings fans should do, believe in now.
This years NFC wide-open yet stacked. Teams like the Rams and Saints have emerged while the Seahawks and Packers have fallen off. Getting to 10 wins in 14 weeks is an impressive feat and five NFC teams have done it this year.
We’re ready, we’re in the playoffs, we’re primed for a run… So what’s on the menu?
Philadelphia. The Eagles currently hold the number one seed in the NFC after a sorry Giants team took them to the wire and then well, turned into the Giants. If Philly wins another game, they have the advantage over Minnesota for the one seed. It’s also clear they’re a very different team without Carson Wentz. If they do get the one seed, it would all but assure we would get the NFC title game at home. Home field or not, Nick Foles isn’t ready for the meat grinder that is this year’s NFC.
St. Louis Los Angeles. The Rams are looking real nice, especially after they shit on the 12s in Seattle yesterday. For a young QB to go into Seattle where teams have had a hard time winning big games and do ‘em like that, that’s scary. Goff is gonna be great, Gurley is as good of a running back as any and their defense is good. Los Angeles could very well be our opponent come the divisional round. We know what we can do to that team (won 24-7 on 11/19) but it would be optimistic to expect the Rams not to put up more of a fight.
Atlanta. The Falcons are in the wild card/NFC south mix but I think they’re the least talented contending team in that division. We handled them in Atlanta and we would handle them here.
New Orleans. A lot has changed since we beat the Saints 29-19 week one. We no longer have Sam Bradford, they no longer have AP and unlikely heroes Alvin Kamara and Case Keenum have elevated the offenses of these two NFC contenders. Playing the Saints in January would be very different from September. Karma is on our side; a chance at New Orleans would be a chance to redeem to ‘09 Vikes and the ‘Katrina Bowl’.
Carolina. The Panthers are the only other team in the NFC that really scares me. They’re deep, they’re balanced and they have a former MVP who can change the game on any given play. I secretly wanted them to lose to the Packers and drop in the standings but here they are, breathing down our necks. If we lose and Panthers win next weekend, guess who slides into the two-seed. I would rather play any other team in the NFC, home or away, come playoffs. Vikings fans would be smart to cheer against Carolina these next few weeks. P.S. who saw Cam straight disrespect the Packers at the line yesterday? That was awesome.
I’m not gonna get ahead of myself and talk about the AFC but man do the Steelers and Patriots look scary.
If this team is as good as advertised, we will finish 13-3 and should easily find ourselves in the NFC title game. Like Paul Allen famously said, “You’re on your own after that.”
Talking points going forward:
Quarterbacks. Case continued to make his short, easy, low consequence throws. It worked and his stats looked great so i’m not gonna rip him. He’s executing the gameplay nearly to perfection. I just fear the day when Case needs to go out of body to win us a game. Teddy got some game action! The Ship was going nuts, I was there chanting Teddy until my face turned blue. The fact he threw a pick on his first pass was so Vikings it hurt my heart a little. Bad ball but it did hit Jet in the hands. Teddy finished 0 for 2 with an INT. Both balls were dropped by the receiver. Case is without a doubt the guy going forward but we gotta get Teddy involved in these last two games. You have to be ready for everything in the playoffs, just in Case.
Defense. Best 3rd down D since the ‘91 Saints. You can call that The Zimm Effect.
Keenum spreading the love. Kyle Rudolph always finds a way to get open in the red zone and he’ll be a huge asset in the postseason. Seeing Diggs get his first touchdown in weeks gave me reasons to be optimistic. If we’re gonna succeed going forward, Case is gonna have to use all his weapons. Luckily for us, he loves those weapons. After yesterday’s game, Keenum told Deion Sanders he feels like he got handed the keys to a Lamborghini. When was the last time the Vikings were compared to a Lamborghini? Well guess what Green Bay; we’re taking our Lambo to your Lambeau next week and we’re about to burn some rubber over your graves.
Special Teams. Jayron Kearse is a guy who stood out to me yesterday. The punter pinned ‘em deep a few times although we usually had great field position. Kai technically did make that 52 yarder so….
For the millionth time this year… (insert generic paragraph about how the stars are aligning for us blah blah blah).
Fasten your seat belts, Minnesota.
In August I predicted the Vikings would finish 10-6 with a wildcard spot. I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.