The NFC’s Top Spot Isn’t Out of Reach for Vikings
We ought to learn from recent history as we assess the current season. Last year, the Arizona Cardinals looked like the NFL’s best team as we approached the midway point. They began their year with an impressive 7-0 record, which included a close victory over the Vikings in Week 2. In those 7 wins, the Cardinals put up more than 30 points 6 times. The great start left them in the NFC’s top spot.
As we know, the good times didn’t continue for the Cardinals. The first stumble occurred in Week 8 when they lost to the Packers. That loss foreshadowed what would end up being an underwhelming second half of the season. Their 7-0 start eventually finished as an 11-6 record, which was 2nd in their division. The Rams beat them 34-11 in the Wild Card Round.
What’s the point of this mini trip down memory lane? Well, it’s to offer a reminder that we shouldn’t prematurely crown Philadelphia as this year’s conference champions. At 8-0, the Eagles have certainly earned the NFC’s top spot. Nevertheless, they’ll need to keep earning that spot as the season continues to unfold.
In sports, there is a danger in peaking too early. Being the best team in October means very little if that same team isn’t the best in January. Ideally, a team is the best version of itself when the most important games are occurring.
Furthermore, there’s danger in insufficient adversity throughout a season. Quite often, it’s the teams that have had to overcome challenging circumstances that are best equipped for the playoffs. Bouncing back from bad calls, bad games, and bad luck can inspire confidence in a team.
Now, the Cardinals’ 2021 descent doesn’t mean that the Eagles will experience a similar outcome. What it does show, though, is that seemingly unbeatable teams can stumble as the season wears on. If that occurs for Philadelphia, Minnesota needs to ensure they’re in a position to take over the NFC’s top spot.
Playing in front of the fans at U.S. Bank Stadium gives the team an advantage. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. The crowd noise does impact the game. Being able to guarantee home field in the playoffs while also getting an extra week off would be crucial.
To give themselves a chance at that reality, the Vikings need to take care of business the rest of the way. Washington isn’t as good as Minnesota, but that doesn’t impact the game. Each side will still start with zero points and then the game will proceed from there. Whoever proves they’re better on that specific day will get the win.
Minnesota then heads into the toughest part of their schedule. Games against the Bills, Cowboys, and Patriots will show us just how good this team really is. Not just surviving but thriving during this stretch will be an excellent indicator that the Vikings are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Vikings are approaching this season as if they are indeed among the NFL’s best teams. The offseason suggested that the team’s leadership still had in confidence in the roster, and the 6-1 start did nothing to undermine that belief. The team has played well enough to be able take aim at first overall in the conference.
Though the Eagles have the advantage, it’d be foolish to assume they’ll definitely snag the top spot. It’s up to Minnesota to play well enough to make things interesting down the stretch.