Last weekend the Vikings pulled off the upset of the week (perhaps the upset of the season as far as Vikings fans are concerned) by beating the “best team in football” in a win that realistically, nobody saw coming. Are the 49ers really the best team in football? Probably not, but they are certainly among the best, maybe in the top three, and they just got destroyed by the lowly Minnesota Vikings, bottom-dwellers of the NFC North. Vikings fans have resigned themselves to the fact that our team came up short in 2009 and everything that had been built up in the years leading up to the Favre era came crashing down, leaving the Vikings in a rebuilding mode that started two years too late. Hopes were not high for the 2012 season among Vikings fans, and even lower among the rest of the NFL. There are those who believed that the Vikings would struggle to tie last years abysmal 3-13 record, perhaps doing even worse, and ending up with another top three or four draft pick. It’s clear at this point that the Vikings are going to surprise some people.
The question is, how much has this team improved and how much of a surprise will their final record be to all the naysayers. The Vikes will undoubtedly do better than last year, they’ve already shown that they are a far more capable team, but does this mean we can all start buying our playoff tickets and getting our hopes up that the Vikes will make their triumphant return to postseason football? The answer to that will depend on today’s game against the Detroit Lions. Ok, I lied, the answer to that question is “No”, but the Lions game will still be incredibly important.
Beating one of the best teams in the National Football League as a team that will likely struggle to reach a 6-10 record is quite a feat, and the Minnesota Vikings did just that last weekend. In the real world, this would mean that the Vikes should be able to beat any team at any time and make their way to the playoffs. Unfortunately the NFL doesn’t play by the rules of the real world. The cliché “any given Sunday” became a cliché football phrase for a reason. Every week during the football season a terrible team beats a great team. Hence the other football cliché that there’s a reason the games are actually played rather than relying on how good two teams look on paper. So the question is whether or not the Vikings got lucky, having one really good game against a team who underestimated them, coming away with a win that won’t amount to anything more than a single win in a long season filled with losses. The other option being that this young Vikings team is coming into its own earlier than expected, and is poised to shock the NFL world with a huge improvement over last year and perhaps even a playoff run.
It is likely that as you read this the game between the Vikings and Lions at Ford Field is already over, and you already know who won. I don’t have this luxury, so I’ll lay out the two outcomes, or rather the way that each of the two outcomes will affect the Vikings season, and you can read as applicable. So here we go:
Vikings Lose. If the Vikings lose it doesn’t really mean all that much (yeah yeah I know I said this game was important). The shocking win over the 49ers was just a flash in the pan; a moment of brilliance in what will likely become another long and painful season. This is a rebuilding team that has already shown some great promise in the few games that have been played, and building on that is probably enough to hope for. A loss at Detroit would be rough for a team with hopes of the playoffs, but that’s not a worry the Vikings have. Maybe we’ll get ‘em when they come to the Metrodome.
Vikings Win. If the Vikes pull out a win against the Lions, the implications will be relatively huge. It would mean that last weeks excellent performance was not just an accident, but a sign of things to come. It’s not enough to merely face a great team at home and shock them with a win. You need to follow that performance up with another convincing win the following week, especially if it’s on the road, and especially if it’s against a division rival. A win over the lions would be a great sign, not to mention furthering the Vikings lead in the division, and would allow us all to get our hopes up just a little bit higher.