Two Mondays ago, Viking fans awoke to a world where their team was 0-2, coming off a frustrating home loss to the Dolphins, while their bitter division rivals the Packers and Bears both sat at 2-0. Prospects for a Viking playoff run seemed dim at that particular moment. But, by the next Monday night, the door of darkness had opened a crack, admitting faint rays of hope. The Vikings had gotten in the win column by smacking around the Lions, while the Packers and Bears, after a Monday night clash won by Chicago, were both left looking considerably less formidable than previously believed.
Fast forward one more week to yesterday afternoon and evening. The Vikings sat at home, enjoying their off-week, while the Packers and Bears both found themselves in dogfights. Green Bay would end up prevailing at home over the Lions, but it was one of those wins that leaves the fanbase with more questions than answers. Questions like, “How good can our defense be if we let Shaun Hill pass for 331 yards,” and “How good can our offense be if we can’t score a single point in the second half against freaking Detroit (outside of a Charles Woodson pick-six)?” Then, adding fuel to the NFC North Has No Legit Team fire, Chicago went out in the Sunday night game and completely melted down, losing both the game – 17-3 to the fairly pitiful Giants – and quarterback Jay Cutler who suffered a concussion during a nightmarish nine-sack first half.
Thanks to these rather alarmingly weak Packer and Bear efforts, that Viking door of darkness has inched open just a little more. Not that the Vikings don’t still have problems of their own. At this point, the problems don’t really require rehashing, but in case you’re in a need of a refresher: Brett Favre isn’t on the same page as his receivers. And the Vikings have injuries and other question marks on the offensive line. And did I mention that their running back depth after Adrian Peterson is an insult to the word “depth?” So, obviously, no…the Vikings are not exactly world-beaters. But, as every good sports fan knows, when your team isn’t as good as you hoped, what you hope for is that the other teams in the division will stumble too. Right now, Viking fans are receiving oodles of reassurance in the form of Packer and Bear ineptitude.
The reassurance gets even more powerful when you realize that neither Green Bay nor Chicago appears to have a ready fix on-hand for their myriad problems. How the hell do the Bears get better on offense when their line is a joke and Jay Cutler is getting thrown around like a rag-doll? What do the Packers do about their lack of a running game when Ryan Grant is out for the year? How do the Packers fix a defense so porous even the Lions could go up and down the field on it almost at will? When you begin pondering the Bears’ and Packers’ issues, the Vikings’ issues suddenly seem less vexing. All the Vikings need to do is get Brett Favre more practice time with Percy Harvin and the boys and that passing game will be fine. When you have Adrian Peterson, you don’t need a great passing game, just an adequate one. And we know how good the defense is. Once we get through this rough part of the schedule and start getting our cracks at the Packers and Bears, the balance of the division will begin to tip our way.
That, my friends, is what they call optimism. There wasn’t much of that around Viking Nation a couple of weeks ago, but today? Thanks to the Bears and Packers, there’s plenty of positive Purple feeling. Whether that feeling will still be present after next Monday’s road trip to face the Jets…well, we’ll see.