The Vikings aren’t the only team giving their fans reason to worry going into the playoffs.
After looking practically unstoppable for the first 13 games of the season, the New Orleans Saints this afternoon dropped their second in a row, losing 20-17 to the allegedly hapless Buccaneers in overtime. This a week after falling to the Cowboys for their first loss of the season.
And, perhaps most disturbingly from the Saints’ point-of-view, both losses happened at home.
For the Vikings, a Saints loss means one important thing: the #1 seed in the NFC is still in play.
Obviously, the Vikings need to beat the Bears Monday night at chilly Soldier Field. Should they do so, they would face the Giants in the Metrodome the last game of the regular season with a chance to clinch homefield throughout.
Should the Giants be eliminated today, as they will if the Cowboys take care of business vs. the Redskins, New York would have nothing to play for but pride. Such a situation can of course work in favor of the eliminated team, if they take the field feeling no pressure.
It can also work against them, if they spend the week making their post-season travel plans, and come into the game just wanting to get it over with.
The Saints, meanwhile, will have as their opponent the very same Carolina Panthers squad that today pushed the Giants to the brink of elimination, and last week, took it to the Vikings in such dominating fashion that Brett Favre almost got his butt sat down.
That game will be in Carolina. If the same Panthers team shows up that’s taken the field the last two weeks, the Saints will be in for a dogfight. Carolina will have reasons to play hard, including the chance to finish .500, and of course, the opportunity to knock off a hated division rival.
Then again, given the way the Saints have played at home the last couple of weeks, maybe the Vikings would be better off getting the 2 seed and facing them in New Orleans in the conference title game. Either way, the game would be indoors, something that would make #4 and his old joints very happy indeed.