Don’t Let Dreams of Vikings Homefield Advantage Die Just Yet
Believe it or not, the 2022 NFL regular season is nearing its end. Teams are jockeying for playoff seeding, with teams dropping out of “the hunt” by the week now. There are still several teams fighting for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. It seems all but inevitable that the Philadelphia Eagles will secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed and homefield advantage.
However, we need to only look at our favorite team’s history in NFC Championship runs to see that the race isn’t over until it’s over. Unsurprisingly, the Minnesota Vikings have allowed certain homefield advantage to slip right through their fingers. They have also ended up knocking on the door of stealing homefield advantage from a foe that at one point appeared to be uncatchable.
The NFL season is long and unpredictable. Although it appears that the Vikings are destined for the NFC’s second (or third) seed, they aren’t entirely out of the running for the coveted first seed yet. Injuries are affecting the Eagles, and as history has taught us, objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. Today, we look back at two times where the NFC’s No. 1 seed appeared to be locked up as the Vikings were in the thick of the race.
2000 Homefield Advantage
Following a 24-17 victory against the Detroit Lions on Thursday Night Football, the 2000 Minnesota Vikings were sitting at 11-2. They were in the driver’s seat for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs for the second time in three years. With 10 days of rest before playing the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams, who would enter the matchup against the Vikings on a three-game losing skid, Minnesota was in a prime position to lock up the race. Worst case, they could knock off the inconsistent Green Bay Packers the following week, who entered December with a record of 5-7.
Out in New York, the Giants were having a streaky season. They followed a 3-0 start with two consecutive losses. After improving to 7-2, they lost to the Rams and Detroit Lions by a combined score of 69-45. It was then that head coach Jim Fassel stated that the Giants would make the playoffs. The Giants would respond and dismantle the Arizona Cardinals 31-7, but they entered December 8-4. Vying for the homefield wasn’t on the minds of the Giants as much as winning the NFC East at that point, as they were still behind the 9-4 Philadelphia Eagles.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, their average-at-best defense fell apart in the season’s final three weeks. After the Rams had failed to eclipse 300 yards in their previous two games, The Greatest Show On Turf racked up 508 yards and beat the Vikings 40-29. One week later, in the comfy confines of the Metrodome, the Vikings hosted the Packers, looking to avenge the insane Antonio Freeman catch on Monday Night Football one month earlier. Instead, the Packers put up 434 yards of offense, their second-highest mark of the season, and held a 33-21 lead before a late Cris Carter touchdown cut the deficit to 33-28 with 2:38 left. The Vikings wouldn’t get the ball back as Packers running back Ahman Green picked up gains of 16 and 28 yards to ice the game.
Meanwhile in the Meadowlands, the Giants continued their winning ways, allowing only 55 points over their final four games. Their 28-25 victory over the Jaguars on Dec. 23 improved their record to 12-4 and secured homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs because they had a better divisional record than the Vikings. On Christmas Eve, the Vikings would trot starters out for a quarter but eventually sat Daunte Culpepper due to an injury for the remainder of the game. The Vikings would finish 11-5, securing the NFC’s No. 2 seed only after the Packers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier that day 17-14.
On January 14, 2001, the Vikings would travel to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants. Although the Vikings were favored, they were down 14-0 before their offense ever touched the ball. The Giants would roll 41-0, advancing to their third Super Bowl in team history. Minnesota wouldn’t return to the playoffs until 2004.
2009 Homefield Advantage
The Vikings were in a race for the NFC’s No. 1 seed in 2009 with the New Orleans Saints, and both teams entered December hot. The Vikings had just dismantled the Chicago Bears 36-10 on Nov. 29 and the Saints had embarrassed the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football by a score of 38-17. The Saints were 11-0, but the Vikings were right on their heels, sitting at 10-1.
All of a sudden, though, each team began to lose its mind. The Saints opened up on Dec. 6 by playing Washington, a 3-8 team. Washington controlled most of the game, leading 30-23 with 1:56 left to go in regulation. But kicker Shaun Suisham missed a 23-yard field goal that would have essentially sealed the victory. Instead, the Saints would tie the game five plays later and eventually win in overtime.
The Vikings would play the 7-4 Arizona Cardinals that night and would proceed to play their worst game of the season. Arizona dominated, the Vikings lost starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for the season, and Minnesota would lose 30-17.
Each team would bounce back the following week, but then each team would lose their Week 15 matchups. The Saints lost at home to the 8-5 Dallas Cowboys, dropping them to 13-1. A day later, the Vikings would lose 26-7 to the 5-8 Carolina Panthers on Sunday Night Football. The Vikings sat at 11-3, missing a golden opportunity once again to make up ground on the Saints.
And wouldn’t you know it, a week later, with a chance to clinch the NFC’s top seed, the Saints would lose to the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime by a score of 20-17. With another ripe opportunity to close ground, the Vikings traveled to Chicago to play the 5-9 Bears, who they had destroyed a month earlier.
After the Bears built a 16-0 halftime lead, the Vikings mounted a furious second-half rally. Brett Favre found Sidney Rice for a six-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 16 seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime. It appeared that everything was going the Vikings’ way as Robbie Gould missed a game-winning 45-yard kick in overtime. But two drives later, Adrian Peterson fumbled the football and the Bears would recover. One play later, Jay Cutler found Devin Aromashodu to give the Bears the victory and the Saints homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Saints wouldn’t play starters for their final game of the season. They lost 23-10 to the Carolina Panthers who had followed up their victory over the Vikings with a 41-9 win over the Giants. Who is to say they couldn’t have beaten the reeling Saints in a meaningful game?
Meanwhile, the Vikings themselves would destroy the Giants 44-7. They secured the No. 2 seed later that afternoon when the Cowboys beat the Eagles 24-0. On January 24, 2010, the Vikings would travel to New Orleans for the NFC Championship Game and narrowly lose 31-28 in overtime. How different might that game have been at the Metrodome?
As it sits now for the 2022 season, the Vikings appear to be out of position to steal the NFC’s No. 1 seed from the Eagles. But Philadelphia will be without quarterback Jalen Hurts at least for this week’s game against the Cowboys. His availability for the final two games is still uncertain.
The Vikings have a home game against the Giants before traveling to Green Bay and Chicago. These are not “gimme” games by any stretch of the imagination. But if history has proven anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. Not even a 33-point lead.
[brid autoplay=”true” video=”1211571″ player=”26281″ title=”Breaking%20down%20Joe%20Burrow’s%20MVPlevel%20of%20play%20this%20season” duration=”54″ description=”Bengals Insider Charlie Goldsmith discusses the keys to Cincinnati’s rise to the top of the AFC North division.” uploaddate=”2022-12-23″ thumbnailurl=”https://cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/snapshot/1211521_sd_1671767965.jpg” contentUrl=”https://cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/streaming/1211521/1211521.m3u8″ width=”16″ height=”9″]