The Vikings playoff positioning improved while they got some much-deserved rest on Sunday, as they increased their lead as the second seed on a few teams (namely the Saints, who they now have a two-game lead and tie-breaker over, along with the LA Rams) but stayed one game back on the extremely dangerous and talented Philadelphia Eagles team. While it may be too early to even talk about this, this year’s Super Bowl could really come down to which team in the NFC has home-field advantage, especially with the Eagles Carson Wentz only being in his second year (despite playing way, way beyond his years with a league-leading 25 TD’s) and the combination of a Mike Zimmer lead defense and the home-field advantage that US Bank Stadium provides making the Vikings a very, very hard team to beat. While I understand that many of you are already cracking your knuckles to give me a tongue-lashing, I have to ask, how soon is too soon to talk about the Super Bowl? Considering the fact that the Vikings are 0-4 in NFC Championship Games in my lifetime, is it too much to bask in moments like these when it’s really all we’ve got?
The answer to both is complicated. Sports fans, like players, are an extremely superstitious bunch, this writer included (as I’ve personally taking a ton of personal blame for Vikings losses) and bringing up the Super Bowl to a team that hasn’t been to one since the 70’s seems like a bad move. I actually planned on writing this article in a week or two, especially if the Vikings are able to shut down Julio Jones and the Falcons (one of the top teams in the NFC and the NFC representative in last year’s Super Bowl) but considering that some of the national media is finally giving the Vikings credit (by perhaps overcompensating a bit) I thought I’d write about this now to get a general sense of what our readers thought. The main impetus was an article I came across on Fan-Sided.com (by a friend of the site Adam Patrick) that talked about Michael Irvin re-assessing his pre-season Super Bowl picks. Before the season started, Irvin picked the Raiders and Cowboys to play in the Super Bowl and was asked whether or not his mind had changed last week and while Irvin is clearly an uber fan of the Cowboys he had to shout out the team that actually built the dynasty’s he was a part of in the 90’s (thanks to the Herschel Walker trade), The Minnesota Vikings.
Irvin said on NFL Gameday on the NFL Network:
“In my do-over here, and I think last week solidified it when I saw that Minnesota did against that number one team and number one offense (of the Los Angeles Rams), I’m going to say Minnesota rides this wave and rides it all the way. I’m taking the Vikings over the Patriots in the Super Bowl at home.”
Now, he may very well have changed his mind again after the 10-1 Eagles almost blanked the Chicago Bears (as the narrative is that the Eagles now have a championship level defense to go along with their championship level offense), but the Bears are basically lame ducks at this point so you really have to look at how the Vikings and Eagles have played against other good teams. As a matter of fact, let’s do just that.
Against other predicted playoff teams the Vikings went:
The Vikings are 1-1 against the Lions, who could make it as a wildcard team and who have had the Vikings number as of late. They bested the New Orleans Saints Week 1, 29-19, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers a week later (in what was Case Keenum’s first start) and bested the Rams 24-7 in what was a huge statement game for them. On top of that, they also beat the Redskins at home, which while they’re not a playoff game they have beat some great teams and are a hard team to beat at home.
The Eagles also bested the Redskins twice, as they’re in the same division. The first game was Week 1, where they won 30-17, the second game wasn’t much different with the Eagles winning 34-24. They’ve won a lot of games by close margins, however, beating the terrible Giants 27-24, the good (to great) Carolina Panthers 28-23 and the other Los Angeles team the Chargers (pre-their midseason come back) 26-24. They’ve faced the 49ers, Broncos, Cowboys (sans ‘Zeke) and Bears over the course of the past four weeks and while they beat them all handily, which is what you want great teams to do, they’ve really not faced a lot of competition (or at least better competition than the Vikings have). So really, home field advantage and the Super Bowl itself could come down to the final 5 games of the season. Let’s break down who has the harder schedule.
The Vikings face the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears over the past five weeks. With the Packers losing to the Steelers on Sunday night there may be little to no reason for Aaron Rodgers to rush back from the surgery he had on his collarbone after the first Vikings-Packers meeting this season and with the Bears falling apart at the seems and the Bengals also being basically terrible, the Vikings have two hard games and three very winnable games left on the schedule. Unfortunately for the Vikes, both of those hard games come back to back and also are on the road, so let’s take a look at the Eagles remaining schedule to see how things stack up.
Over the next five weeks the Eagles face the Seahawks, who are fighting for a wildcard spot or the division (they’re one game behind the Rams, however, they’re missing most of their defensive secondary and their offense is atrocious at times), the Rams (who bounced back from the trouncing the Vikings gave them and beat the New Orleans Saints, who had won eight games in a row), The Giants (a gimme), the Raiders (who have the leagues worst defense but were picked to make a lot of damage this season and could be playing for their post-season in week 16) and they end the season with Dallas (who will have Zeke back by then and could also be fighting for their playoff lives).
So, it actually looks like the Vikings have the leg-up on the Eagles in terms of remaining schedules and if they can get past the Falcons they’ll have a great shot at the number one seed. Julio Jones put up over 250 yards this weekend and it’ll be amazing to see what Xavier Rhodes and company do to shut him down and bringing another win against a playoff team would be huge for this team’s confidence. The Panthers are a hot or cold team and the Vikings played them last year before the Bye and absolutely destroyed Cam Newton, sacking him around 10 times (IIRC). Considering we have the same 11 starters from last season, you’d think that we’d have a good advantage there as well. Either way, it’ll be a great litmus test for the Vikings and could help them stay fine-tuned as the playoffs approach as the teams that are playing well in December are typically the ones that go on to win the Super Bowl (regardless of record).
Then again, this could all be for not as it could be too early for us to discuss the Super Bowl. While I used to be in that same crowd, I also realize that what makes sports fun is the speculation and what-iffery that comes with it and there is no bigger what if than this. What if the Vikings are the first team in NFL history to play at home during the Super Bowl? Even if they’d come in as the road team, which apparently would be the case because it’s the NFC’s year to be the away team. So, I’m sure that I’ll get some hate mail for this but really this (meaning speculation) is really all we have as Vikings fans at least all we have right now, that very well could change come early February! Knock on all the wood in the world, of course!