Assessing the Weekend

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The NFL had another crazy weekend (thanks mostly to the weather and Jessica Simpson’s curse on Tony Romo). The Vikings didn’t participate, of course, since their game is tonight. But there were a few games that did have implications for the Purple, given the recent revival of their playoff hopes. Let’s run them down now:

Washington 22, N.Y. Giants 10

A good-news/bad-news situation for the Vikes I guess. Good in that they pulled a half-game closer to the Giants for the top wild-card spot, bad in that Washington got to 7-7, which, should we lose to the Bears tonight, would give the ‘Skins a chance to leap-frog us by beating them next week. Of course, taking the glass-half-full perspective – something we always like to do here at TVA – this game turned out just like we wanted, since we already hold the tie-breaker over the Giants, and have a chance to take care of Washington ourselves.

The question of whether we can overtake the Giants for that top wild-card spot – something that looks eminently plausible, especially given the season-ending injury to Jeremy Shockey and the continued miserable play of Eli Manning – is really only relevant if you think it matters whether we hold the 5 or 6 seed going into the playoffs. Some might say it doesn’t mean a thing, but I think it does. I would much rather play Seattle up there on wild-card weekend than have to play Tampa in Tampa. I think we can beat a so-so Seattle team fairly easily; Tampa I’m not so sure about. The way things have been going, Tampa looks more likely to close out strong and get the 3 seed, leaving Seattle with the 4 seed. The 6 seed would then play Tampa, meaning I would rather hold the 5 seed.

Extending that beyond the wild-card round: Holding the 5 seed means you would play the 2 seed the second weekend of the playoffs, and right now the 2 seed is the Packers. Some might call it masochistic to want another match-up with Green Bay, especially after what they did to us last time, but I can’t help remembering what happened the only other time the Vikings played the Pack at Lambeau in the playoffs after the Packers bested us twice in the regular season – an epic victory featuring a Randy Moss mooning of the drunken Packer faithful. Of course, this Packer team is far superior to that squad, which itself barely squeaked into the post-season. Still, there’s the old “hard to beat a team three times in one season” argument. And frankly, I think it would be a lot more fun to beat the Packers in the second round then play Dallas in the NFC title game. I’m only sipping the Kool Aid right now, not chugging it.

San Diego 51, Detroit 14

I had already written the Lions off anyway – yesterday’s fold-up job against the Chargers only confirmed I was right. Mathematically the Lions are still alive of course – but you’d have a hard time convincing even Jon Kitna that this slender thread of hope means a damn thing at this point. What a gigantic collapse by the Kitties.

New Orleans 31, Arizona 24

I had the Cardinals pegged as the team most likely to give the Vikings trouble, but Arizona didn’t get it done in the Superdome, and now they’re on life-support. This transfers the title of “most dangerous team” to New Orleans, especially given the weakness of their remaining schedule – at home against Philly and at the Bears. The Saints could easily win both those games and finish 9-7, putting a lot of pressure on the Vikes. Of course, the Saints are without Reggie Bush, and their defense has had its occasional problems this year. Hopefully Philly will go into NOLA next weekend on a nice little high after beating Dallas and lay a beat-down on the Saints. I would say the same about the Bears, but the thought of pinning any hopes on that team makes me sick to my stomach.

The above speculating won’t mean a damn thing, of course, if the Vikes just win their games. They hold the second wild-card right now, and victory means playoffs. And, as we all know from watching ESPN, anything can happen in the playoffs.

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