The #1 knock against the Vikings, for people who wish to debunk the notion that they are among the elite in the NFL, is that they have amassed their 8 wins by stomping on the league’s bottom-feeders, and have failed their only test against a legitimate club (the Steelers).
The classic rebuttal to this “Yeah, but they haven’t beaten anyone” argument is “You play the teams on your schedule. The good teams beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.” So far this year, the Vikings have beaten all the teams they were supposed to beat. Sometimes handily. Sometimes…not handily.
A win over today’s opponent, the 3-6 Seahawks, will do little to help the Vikings in the eyes of the debunkers. It’s another team they’re supposed to beat.
Attentive Viking fans will, of course, never fall for the “easy schedule” argument. They lived through the Mike Tice years, where nearly every supposed playoff run ended up getting derailed by some team the Vikings allegedly had no business losing to.
Things seem different this year, with Brett Favre at the helm. The team seems more sure of itself. The little bumps in the road only make the ride more interesting, where in the past, they would’ve sent us careening toward the ditch.
That being said, if ever a team were ripe to have a giant dose of reality dropped on their slightly swelled heads, the Vikings would seem to be it.
Their win last week over the Lions may have been comfortable on the scoreboard and the statsheet, but anyone who watched it knows the Vikings did not play anywhere near their best. The performance was, putting it mildly, mistake-ridden. Had the opponent been anyone but the dismal Lions, the Vikings would not have survived all those self-inflicted bloody holes in their feet.
The hope is that, today against Seattle, the presumed post-bye-week rust will be completely knocked off, the sense of urgency will be restored and the team will revert to the steady, relatively mistake-free form they showed throughout the first 8 games of the season. And if those nagging issues linger? This could be the real trap game.
The Seahawks would seem equipped to give the Vikings a run for their money. Their rushing attack is basically non-existent, but Matt Hasselbeck can still pass the ball, and he has some decent receivers in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burlseon. And we all know how prone the Vikings’ secondary is to getting gashed.
The answer last week against Matthew Stafford and the Lions was blitzing, but such an attack is always less effective against a wily veteran like Hasselbeck, who knows how to read the blitz, stand in and deliver the ball.
If the Vikings want pressure this week, they’ll need to get it from their front-4. That group was magnificent against the Lions last weekend and has been the strength of the defense all year. With teams all gearing up to stop Jared Allen, Ray Edwards has emerged as a top-notch pass rusher off the left edge. If the front can create havoc, without need of blitzing help, the secondary should be able to hold up even with Antoine Winfield on the shelf for another game.
That’s kind of a big “if.” We’ve seen some pretty mediocre passing teams come to life this year against the Vikings, notably the 49ers, who had us beat thanks largely to Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis (but still lost thanks to The Favre and Greg Lewis). And this week, we’ll be facing a legit pass offense.
I suspect the Seahawks will be able to put yards, and points, on the board against the Vikings. The question is, will they be able to prevent the Vikings from doing the same against them?
The answer to that, I’m quite confident, is “no.”
The Seahawks are not facing Chillyball 2008 or Chillyball 2007. They are facing Chillyball 2009, a version of Chillyball that has put up 30 points-per-game, placing them second in the league only to the juggernaut New Orleans Saints.
Seattle has been middle-of-the-road all season in defense, allowing 22 points-per-game and ranking 19th in yards allowed. So, if the Vikings just do what they do, and don’t get called for dumb penalty after dumb penalty like last week, they should have no problem matching or exceeding their average.
If both these offenses come in revved and ready, and play up to their capabilities, we may have a shootout on our hands.
Whatever ends up happening, I doubt the Vikings will win this one in a cakewalk. Seattle may be a disappointment this year, but they still have enough to give a good team trouble, and their offense is good at the stuff the Vikings are bad at stopping (namely, dinking-and-dunking down the field in infuriatingly effective West Coast fashion). I expect, at the very least, a tense game that will still be a game well into the 4th quarter.
And I expect Brett Favre and the Vikings to once again pull one out. No matter how shaky they get, they always seem to get the big play when they need it. That comes from having a quarterback who doesn’t get rattled, and receivers like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin who have a knack for rising to the occasion.
Of course, such a win will do nothing, in the minds of naysayers, to dispel all those well-worn objections. I guess the Vikings will just have to keep winning, if they want to shut those people up.
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