Something About These Vikings Still Makes Us a Little Nervous

M. EccherCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 4:  Head coach Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings walks on the field during action against the Dallas Cowboys at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 4, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 35-31. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

If the Vikings were any other Super Bowl contender, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

We wouldn't be getting antsy about taking the Lions seriously. We wouldn't flirt with the idea of putting our money on Detroit plus 10.5. And we certainly wouldn't be wondering why Peter King picked Minnesota to lose.

With any other contender, we'd be counting up Adrian Peterson's touchdowns in advance. We'd be debating whether Brett Favre qualifies as an elite fantasy option this week. We'd be game-planning for San Francisco.

But we're not. We're working up a "wait-and-see" attitude that speaks volumes about how far these Vikings have to go to win our trust.

You'd think a 17-3 mark against the Lions over the past decade would earn Minnesota a little slack here. And you'd think a 45-27 beatdown in New Orleans last week would keep Detroit's stock down heading into tomorrow's game.

Look past the Vikings' daunting head-to-head edge, however, and you'll see a long list of close calls. Over the past 10 years, 11 of Minnesota's wins in the series have been single-possession affairs.

Factor in Detroit's three wins, and the final margin 14 of the past 20 Vikings-Lions games has been seven points or less.

Last season, the Vikings outscored Detroit by a total of six points in two wins, and trailed entering the fourth quarter in both games. Against a Lions team that lost 13 games by at least a touchdown in 2008, that practically constitutes defeat. 

History aside, the consternation over a potential upset tomorrow sheds light on a lack of faith in Minnesota's ability to dictate the course of the game against an inferior opponent.

We're not sure if we trust the passing offense to shred Detroit's dismal secondary. We're not sure if we trust the defense to bottle up Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith.

And we're not sure if we trust Brad Childress to go for the kill early rather than letting the Lions linger into the second half, as the Browns did last week.

Indeed, at the heart of the lingering unease that surrounds Sunday's game is the sense (fair or otherwise) that Childress' Vikings squads have a knack for underachieving.

Fans wanted the playoffs in 2007; they got 8-8. They wanted a Super Bowl berth last year and got a first-round loss at home.

In some circles, Childress is seen as a coach who can't seem to maximize the sum of his team's talented parts.

If the Vikings want to make the leap from good to great, they need to put those doubts to rest. They need to stamp out any trace of hope Detroit might have.

At halftime, we shouldn't be asking if the Vikings are going to pull this one out. We should be asking when they're going to call off the dogs.

For the record, I don't expect an upset, or even a squeaker. If the Vikes can drop 34 points on a middle-of-the-pack Browns defense, I don't see why they can't hang at least that many on Detroit.

I don't think Matthew Stafford will stay upright against Minnesota's front four. Frankly, I don't see how the Lions will stay within single digits.

If we were talking about any other contender, these things would go without saying.

But we're talking about the Vikings. And even against the Lions, this is one bunch of Super Bowl hopefuls with plenty left to prove.


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