The Minnesota Vikings approach a Sunday home game against the Buffalo Bills, a winless team being lead by a rookie quarterback, with great confidence. But could that confidence prove a potential hazard to their performance?
As the Minnesota Vikings prepare for week three after an emotional and protracted contest against their NFC North rival Packers, they find themselves 17 point favorites over a beleaguered Buffalo Bills team that is 0-2.
However, what comes after this week 3 matchup could very well be on the minds of Vikings players and coaches, as they will face their most crucial test of the 2018 season in traveling to Los Angeles to face the Rams and Philadelphia to play the Eagles in primetime games in consecutive weeks.
So, as a 17-point favorite, in front of the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd, facing a team that has been outscored 78-23 in two games, could the Vikings be walking into what some have called a “lobster trap” game?
What’s a “lobster trap” game?
Well, let’s look up some history in a game that involved the Vikings.
In 2002, then head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Dave Wannstedt hung lobster traps from the ceiling of the Dolphins locker room as they prepared to travel to Minnesota and play the Vikings in the Metrodome.
It was December, week 16 of the NFL season, the Dolphins were leading their division at 9-5 and facing a Vikings team who were suffering a terrifically bad season under new coach Mike Tice. Minnesota had lost wide receiver Cris Carter to retirement, dropped their first four games and were a pathetic 4-10, with the league’s 29th ranked defense.
For Miami, a win over lowly Minnesota–and then a win over their division rival New England Patriots in week 17–would have clinched the AFC East.
In a bizarre twist, the “retired” Cris Carter was coaxed out of retirement and was actually a starting receiver on the Dolphins as the game took place.
But why the lobster traps?
Wannstedt, never the most eloquent of coaches, said of them: “It’s just a little reminder that nine wins doesn’t guarantee us anything.”
Personally, I remember the game, as well as the story of the traps hanging in the Dolphin locker room. Just as Hall-of-Fame head coach Bill Parcells used to put cheese in the locker of his New York Giant teams, directly indicating that the players shouldn’t “take the cheese” when it came to accolades and praise of their play by the press, Wannstedt was reminding his Miami players that Minnesota still had wide-receiver Randy Moss and quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
The Minnesota Vikings weren’t lobsters already in the trap. They still had claws and the Dolphins had to face them, even if their record was 4-10 and they had an awful defense.
Whether he communicated that with his lobster traps to his Dolphin team or not, Miami lost that game to the Vikings, 20-17, on 53-yard field goal by kicker Gary Anderson with 17 seconds left in the game.
Yes, that Gary Anderson.
So, do the Buffalo Bills have claws? Or are they just half-dead lobsters already in the trap?
The Bills may have not made a great presentation of how they’re living without ex-quarterback Tyrod Taylor (now in Cleveland), but they still feature Pro-Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, who is dinged but has indicated he will play, and a defense that has excellent athletes, despite their 2018 under-achievements so far.
Buffalo has made a mess of many things so far, including cornerback Vontae Davis’ midgame retirement, head coach Sean McDermott taking defensive the play-calling away from ex-Vikings coach and current Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, and even news of a rather scandalous Twitter-barb from Bills wide-receiver Zay Jones’ mother, who called out fellow Bills wide-receiver Kelvin Benjamin for not lining up correctly in their Sunday loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
When Mom gets involved, there are serious problems.
But the Minnesota Vikings should remember that the Buffalo Bills were a playoff team in 2017. They should also know that, in the long history of the NFL, stranger things have happened than a Bills upset win on Sunday.
Like Gary Anderson winning a game with a last-second 53-yard kick.