Oberle’s Fact or Fiction: The Historic Comeback Shows that the Vikings Are Legit Contenders in the NFC 

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) reacts to his catch against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Fact or Fiction:
The Historic Comeback Shows that the Vikings are Legit Contenders in the NFC

The Vikings completed the greatest comeback in NFL history last Saturday by coming back from a 33-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime.

This win moves them to 11-3 on the season, clinches the NFC North Division, guarantees them at least the third seed (although they are currently seeded second) in the NFC playoffs, and at least one home playoff game come January. Does that show that they’re a legitimate contender in the NFC when the playoffs come rolling around?

Some NFL history might suggest that such a notion is a fact. I would say it’s fiction, however.

The Vikings’ win eclipsed the heretofore greatest comeback in league history by surpassing the 1992 Buffalo Bills, who beat the Houston Oilers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs by overcoming a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to win the game 41-38 and keep advancing in playoffs—where they did like Buffalo and Minnesota have always done, losing in the Super Bowl. The Vikings bested the Bills 32-point comeback with a 33-point third-quarter comeback and now hold the record. But the Bills were 11-5 in the regular season and had defeated a playoff team in the Oilers, plus the Bills were in the midst of their four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and they were loaded with talent on both offense and defense.

The 2022 Vikings, with 11 wins of their own, are a completely different animal and are not in the midst of an epic run.

The Vikings have talent on offense, currently ranked eighth in the league in points scored with 25.1 per game. They have the best wide receiver in the game, a very talented (though slightly underachieving) running game, and a quarterback who may be down statistically but is amassing his best season in terms of a team record in his career. The defense, which, as they say historically “win championships,” is down compared to those 1990 Bills teams and to the rest of the league defenses this season. They are ranked 28th in points allowed (at 24.9 per game) and dead last in yards allowed with 399.2 per game. They have a point differential of +2, a stat with which they have confounded fans and experts throughout the season (such as being the first 10-win team to have a negative point differential in history). They have won games by the skin of their teeth, and that just isn’t the kind of performance you tout heading into the playoffs.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) celebrates his game winning field goal against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

But more to the fictional point of them being a legit NFC contender is how they won that game on Saturday. They looked about as bad as you could look in amassing that history deficit—and they did it against a 4-8-1 Colts squad that had nothing to play for and had fired their head coach in mid-season (and that fired head coach, by the way, was one Frank Reich, who was the QB architect of that aforementioned Bills history-making comeback). A Colts team that in their previous game gave up 33 fourth-quarter points to the Dallas Cowboys in another epic collapse. If you wanted to perform a comeback against anyone, it would the 2022 Indy Colts.

I tend to agree with Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, who in his Monday presser said he was more concerned with how the team got into the situation of being down by a five-score margin than how they came back from it. He knows full well this unique performance, which broke a 30-year-old record, won’t likely be repeated in the near future. The Vikings have to figure out how to play better earlier if they want to survive in the NFC Playoffs.

Still, all you need in this league is a chip and a chair and a chance, as they say. The Vikings secured the chair on Saturday—a home playoff game; they have a chip—they score a lot of points; and they have a chance—they know how to never give up and win games late—they have won 10 of 11 by one-score. So, anything is possible. But they won’t be facing the “folds-like-a-card-table Colts” but, rather, a playoff team that has earned their right to face them.

The Vikings are cardiac kids, and that’s been great and exciting, if not consistently amazing. But this epic comeback means nothing regarding how they will fare in the NFC Playoffs.

For my money, let’s see them win out (at home on Saturday against a potential playoff team in the New York Giants followed by road games in Green Bay and Chicago, places that have not often been kind to this franchise) and secure two home playoff games. Then I will say they are legit contenders in the NFC and can potentially head to Philly, if need be, with that chip and that chair and, perhaps, a little revenge on their minds.

Editor’s Note: The editor was inspired by a hockey fact of fiction piece he previously read. He contacted Joe Oberle to get his take on some Vikings football. The veteran writer offers his opinion and rationale why a statement is either fact or fiction. Readers can find him on Twitter @joeoberle.

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