Then the Bears game happened, and those visions all evaporated like snow on a hot stove.
Not only did the Monday night fiasco slam the door on the #1 seed, it also opened all sorts of other doors the Vikings would’ve as soon kept locked. Depending on what happens this afternoon, the Vikings could end up as high as the 2 seed and as low as the 4.
The scenarios at this point are not complicated. If the Vikings win and the Eagles lose, the Vikings secure the #2 seed and a week off to rest and recuperate. If the Vikes win and the Eagles win, the Vikes are the #3 seed and will have to play someone next weekend. If the Vikes lose and the Cardinals win, the Vikes end up the #4 seed, which wouldn’t mean a whole lot in terms of match-ups, but would just seem a really pathetic place to end up after being 10-1.
The only really good scenario, clinching the #2 seed, involves the Vikings winning, and to do so they will need to play much better than they have most of the last month.
It would not be an exaggeration to say the Vikes have been in a tailspin. They’ve lost 3-out-of-4, 2 in blow-out fashion, 2 against teams they should’ve easily beaten. And in the process, certain unpleasant aspects of the team’s inner-dynamic have been exposed, like fish guts left to rot in the sun.
Amidst the carnage, the season’s narrative has shifted from “The Amazing Brett Favre Comeback Story” to “The Sad Tale of Stubborn Brad Childress and His Prima Donna Quarterback.”
That story took another amazing twist against the Bears when Favre mounted a furious second half rally after old fashioned Chillyball caused the team to fall behind 16-0 in the first half. Maybe I just don’t understand how these things work, but it sure looked to me like Brett’s way worked better than Chilly’s.
All eyes will be on the offense this week, with the Vikings returning to the Metrodome, where they have been dominant all season. We are curious to know if Chilly will start the game in typical fashion, attempting to “establish the running game” by flinging Adrian Peterson against a brick wall repeatedly, or if he will finally wake up to the reality that he doesn’t have the personnel to mount the power run attack he dreams of when his eyes flutter closed at night.
My money is on the Vikings starting in Chillyball mode. So, prepare yourself for plenty of minus rushing plays, and lots of dump-off passes over the middle that clang off various receivers’ hands.
If the Giants are able to mount any kind of offense against the Vikings, look for New York to grab a sizeable lead. At which point Childress will again be forced to turn his eyes to Favre, swallow his magnificent Chilly pride and ask #4 to bail out his sorry ass.
If I possessed a glimmer of optimism about Childress’ capacity to change, I might let myself believe he would actually open up the offense from the start of the game, tell Naufahu Tahi and Jim Kleinsasser to set their asses down on the bench, put Percy Harvin in the slot and Adrian Peterson alone in the backfield and let Favre do what Favre does.
I have dreams too. The other one involves Childress getting run over by a Village Hearth truck.
And then there’s the defense, which deserves its fair share of the blame for the meltdown. If form holds, getting back on turf will help Jared Allen and the pass rush. Turf can’t fix what’s wrong with Antoine Winfield though, which is why Antoine may only play nickel, or not play at all.
The Vikings will face a Giants team that barely has reason to get out of bed, much less bust their asses on the field. They still had playoff hopes last week, but those got blowed up in the Meadowlands by the Panthers, and now, two years removed from their Super Bowl victory, the Giants find themselves staggering to the finish line, just hoping not to embarrass themselves.
It all sets up for the Vikings to fashion a resounding statement game. They’re at home. They’re playing a demoralized opponent. They still have tangible stuff to play for. They are mad, or at least should be.
I don’t need to tell you that, the last few weeks, things haven’t exactly worked out the way they seemed set up to work out.
The only thing that did go right was the one home game, vs. the Bengals, which the Vikings thoroughly dominated. If they repeat that performance, they will have no problem dispatching the Giants. If they play the way they did against the Bears Monday night, then pretty much anything can happen, most of it bad.
And should the Vikings somehow manage to drop this game and wind up having to play next week with a three game losing streak…well, let’s just say, confidence will not be running high in Viking Nation. That old familiar dread will be on the prowl.
And we will all know who to blame for the collapse. Not Favre. Not Peterson. Not Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster.
If I close my eyes, I can almost see the Village Hearth truck coming down the road…
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Tags: Adrian Peterson Antoine Winfield Arizona Cardinals Brad Childress Brett Favre Chicago Bears Jared Allen Jim Kleinsasser Minnesota Vikings Naufahu Tahi New Orleans Saints Percy Harvin Philadelphia Eagles