An upset win in New Orleans may seem like a tall task for the Minnesota Vikings, but as its team has been reassembled in fair health, it stands as the final testament to their 2019 season. Win and advance, or lose and be subject to all the questions and criticisms they have faced since September.
No one is going to talk about a stunning 20-point comeback against the Broncos in Week 11 if the Minnesota Vikings leave the Superdome on Sunday with a loss. No one is going to feature essay in regard to the improvements of Minnesota’s run game, the reliability of their special teams unit, or the development of a young offensive line.
Instead, what will be written online and on the desktop will be that last-second field goal in Kansas City at midseason or the fact that they couldn’t stop the Seahawks’ ground game in Seattle late in the year.
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They beat no winning teams. They went 2-4 in their own division. They were beaten soundly by the Packers at home in Week 16. Kirk Cousins is a .500 quarterback and Mike Zimmer is now receding from the ceiling of his head coaching years in Minnesota.
That may seem a shame, all that immense work from OTAs through training camp, 17 weeks of planning and practice spent on but one an NFC playoff berth of which the dreaded New Orleans Saints put in a box, but that’s the game of pro football with its critics and incandescence, it’s game-breaking glory and its sudden death.
It’s all dramatic and impartial and completely about winning and losing.
Getting Out Of The Superdome
Because the Vikings have “backed into” the playoffs and the Saints have marched through all their competition during the last month, oddsmakers are now placing an eight-point handicap on New Orleans in this Wildcard matchup on Sunday.
Certainly, it’s an insult to Mike Zimmer and his team who are 2-2 against Sean Payton and his Saints since taking over a head coach in Minnesota in 2014, but it’s an insult that Zimmer appreciates as fodder for his type of underdog mentality.
Zimmer is well-aware that the Vikings have the ability to beat this Saints team, but he’s also aware that the physical circumstances of the match may not be in his favor right now. His two starting running back are not in full health, his Pro Bowl wide receiver (the one who has made countless plays to sustain drives and create momentum) is hardly in top form, and his starting middle linebacker will be playing the game with an injured quadriceps muscle.
Meanwhile, the Saints are humming like a gold Escalade right off the blocks. Even if RB Alvin Kamura is not at 100%, his backup, Latavius Murray, is healthy as a horse and ready to punish the team he played for in 2017 and 2018.
Drew Brees doesn’t even seem to need another receiver to throw to other than First-Team All-Pro Michael Thomas, a player all of 26 years old. When he does, he taps journeyman veterans like Ted Ginn, Jared Cook and his hybrid mismatch-in-waiting, Taysom Hill.
They’re all tough to beat–and tougher still in the Louisiana Superdome in a playoff game.
Off-Script Or Off-Season
Anybody worth his salt in the page prediction department calls this one for the Saints. The Vikings haven’t beaten anybody, the Saints are peaking, Kirk Cousins is an overpaid signal-caller, Zim’s a grumpy grey mare, etc.
But still the script has not been written yet. Minnesota retains the contingency to play this game as the #6 seed challenging the #3 seed in their home stadium. No player will be hindered in any way from playing their best. And if history plays any role in this game, it’s no assurance that the Saints win just by showing up.
After a long year that has seen much drama in the Vikings’ camp in the negative, they have also celebrated team play, numerous victories, and a playoff berth to a tournament that is the very essence of opportunity to a professional football team.
They get the chance to play this game, give their all, and even in defeat realize that’s what truly matters, even while having to face the contingent doubts of many through a long off-season.
However, they also get the chance to play and win, then move on after drinking from that winning cup, able to earn others and be certain that all their work has not been in vain.