In 1998, as many fans remember, the Minnesota Vikings seemingly came out of nowhere with quarterback in Randall Cunningham, a hot shot rookie wide receiver in Randy Moss, and a swagger that truly hasn't been back since, until season.
This year, Cunningham has been replaced by an even better Brett Favre and that hot shot rookie (who I predicted to be runner-up for the ROY) is Percy Harvin.
As a Vikings fan, I've wrote about it all here in "Brett Favre to the Vikings has the Makings of 1998 all over again with a better ending." once Brett Favre was officially announced, I also predicted the Vikings to make it all the way to the Super Bowl and lose (i.e. I made these picks prior to the season). Knowing that they are rolling now doesn't come as a surprise to me.
What does, however, are the Saints who I, like the rest of the league, didn't see coming. Last night's beating of the New England Patriots may have been the best and last chance we, as Vikings fans, had to catch everyone's media darling, the boring New Orleans Saints, for home field advantage.
The Saints can also thank their lucky stars that they played the game in the over-hyped and over-emotional Superdump, uh, dome. Had they been up in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the game may, I emphasize, may, have been different.
Cincinnati Bengals: Just Play the Super Bowl Already" target="_blank">As I've written before, the Saints just look unbeatable at home, and that is the sad part of it for all Vikings fans. The Vikings are going to finish 15-1 only to see the Saints run the table and finish 16-0 and thus, for their troubles, they will have to travel down to the Big Easy for the NFC Championship Game.
Introducing the "Hurricane Katrina's": AKA the New Orleans Saints
It's bad enough that we are seeing Saints fans come out of the woodwork. Suddenly everyone's Cajun—how many of you fools had to look up the spelling (and meaning for that matter) of "Geaux Saints"?
How many of you so-called Cajuns thought "Geaux" rhymed with "box" before a real Saints fan, (i.e. the ones who put old paper bags over their heads during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s told you otherwise?
Yeah, I see your gold and black and I also see that it is neither faded nor worn, it's new, kind of like your taste for winning thus reinforcing my bandwagon claims.
These Saints are starting to remind me of the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who went from worst to first, even though I will admit they always had some talent on the offensive side of the ball.
What puzzles me is the "good defense" the Saints are now playing. Suddenly Mike McKenzie, who you cut, is playing well? Darren Sharper, who wore out his welcome the last two years in Minnesota and looked like he was done, is rejuvenated? I don't buy it, just like I don't buy their defense or their chances at long-term success.
Enjoy it while you can Saints fans, because when it's gone, you so-called "fans" will be gone too.
The worst part of it all though, is that once the playoffs start, all we are going to hear about is Hurricane Katrina, over and over again. Sure it was sad, no one is denying that, but every state faces hardships and unfortunate circumstances. Minnesota had a bridge collapse and they didn't sensationalize it like the announcers will no doubt sensationalize the tragedy of Katrina.
Here's hoping for 2006 all over again, like when these Saints lost their playoff virginity opposite of the playoff-tested Vikings. That year, everyone's favorite upstart made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game before losing to Rex Grossman, yes Rex Grossman, and the Chicago Bears.
That game however, was in Chicago and not the new "friendly confines" that this game will likely be.
Minnesota needs this win. For New Orleans, it would just make for a "nice story."
New Orleans, if you lose, there will be next year. You'll still have your core of Brees, Colston, an emerging Robert Meacham, a healthy Shockey, an overrated Bush, and that overrated defense.
Minnesota, should they lose, could be on their way to L.A. sooner rather than later.
You remember that, right? You know, the place you were once rumored to go, potentially before Hurricane Katrina ironically saved you.
Don't take this personally New Orleans, as its nothing against you, per se, I just: A, don't like band-wagoners and I'm seeing way too many of them now that the ESPN hype machine has basically become ESPNEWORLEANS; and B, when it comes down to it, I'll take anyone re-locating to L.A. over my team.
You're a good team. I get that. You somehow won eleven straight games and if my team was out of the playoffs I'd probably cheer for you knowing its better than the alternative of the Cowboys, the Eagle, or the Packers.
Also consider that while I don't want anyone to move to Los Angeles, I find it hilarious that the second largest metropolis in the United States can't support and doesn't have a team in the nation's most popular league.
If anyone has to move let it be the Jaguars to Los Angeles" target="_blank">Jacksonville Blackouts, uh, Jaguars, who never should have been in the league in the first place with their small, apathetic base, and similar market.
Remember those rumors I mentioned where you could have ended up in L.A? I was, (and still am) one of those who defended your right to stay in Louisiana and that was before and after Katrina, long before you were good, or even competitive for that matter.
Please don't take this as a shot against any one of your players or against the city as a whole. It's the media and their propaganda.
They are only doing their jobs in trying to create fan interest and intrigue but there has to be a limit. I at least hope they call it both ways and don't make their bias toward "the little team that could" too obvious.
How sad would it be if our own fairy tale season a 40-year-old Brett Favre, who came back to play for the arch-rival Vikings after 16 seasons in Green Bay, has an MVP season that is quite possibly going to end up his best statistically, and the only thing that stops them from capping the dream season and even making the Super Bowl, are the pesky and "lovable" Saints?
In 1998 the 15-1 Vikings were similarly steamrolling through opponents until they ran into the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons, who upset them at home in the NFC title game.
To the Falcons credit, they were 14-2, but watch out Saints, those Falcons disappeared after the season and didn't emerge again until Michael Vick led them back to that game in 2002 where they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
This year, unfortunately, the Saints have taken on the role of the Falcons, only this time, as repeatedly stated, the venues will be reversed once the Saints and their legion of "fans" host what should be our game.
I mean, what are the chances that the NFL sees a 15-1 team have to go on the road, to that location and city of all places, in the most important game in the recent history of the franchise?
It's about as likely as the NFL having two teams go undefeated the same season, as the Colts and Saints are preparing to do. After three decades of having no undefeated teams, the NFL is about the have three in the past three seasons.
Now in 2009, we get our pick between daddy's boy Peyton Manning and the cow town Colts (who should still be in Baltimore by the way) and these tiring Saints, whose act and reign at the top I believe will get old quickly.
I can't wait.
In either case, the Vikings and their magical season will continue to play second fiddle to the Colts and the Saints.
See, I had prepared for the Vikings to steamroll through the playoffs only to run into the boring buzz-saw that is either the Patriots or Colt.
Now we get the Saints who are coming out of left field and are ripe to spoil the party—or is it a "gala" in "Nawlins" talk?
Destined for Disappointment
As a Vikings fan from birth, I've seen many disappointments.
Beyond the 1998 season, I've seen the hype and excitement of all of the Dennis Green years.
I've put up with the "Love Boat" shenanigans, the "Straight Cash Homey" lingo from Randy Moss , who, to his credit, gave the franchise the same shot in the arm Favre is doing this year.
I've seen the Vikings come back from ten down with under two-minutes to go in a playoff game, like they did to the 1997 New York Giants. I've also sat through the entire 41-0 beatdown in the 2000 NFC Championship Game where the Giants returned the favor.
I've had my heart broken so many times by this team that I keep expecting the "bad game" the experts expect Favre to have to come sooner or later. For this reason, while the team is 10-1, I can't fully enjoy it knowing it could come any week and thus cost us a chance at hosting the NFC Championship Game.
I, however, keep getting this feeling that it will come when we can least afford it—in the playoffs against, you guessed it, the New Orleans Saints, in their house against their vaunted defense, thus completing the cycle and killing our season.
Vikings-Bengals: Super Bowl XLIV not allowed to happen?
The Super Bowl I want, the Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, may not even get a chance to happen thanks to the Saints and to either the Patriots or Colts.
Why did I want the Bengals?
If worse came to worse, I don't have a problem losing to them. After all, do they have staying power? As much as I'd like to think so, I doubt it, as the Ravens and Steelers are probably just struggling temporarily.
I can empathize with them seeing how the Corporate Colts or Plastic Patriots will probably overshadow them and beat them if and when they meet in January on their way to Miami.
I see a lot of similar disrespect here, and the fans and the media are to blame.
But who can blame them? The NFL would rather market pretty boys like Manning and Brady, or over-hype the Saints.
In a league of true parity, it would be a shame to see two franchises that truly would make for some fresh and exciting story lines to get snake bitten by the same tired, old franchises and petty story lines.
Here's hoping the Cowboys can roll into 'Nawlins and stun the Saints in three weeks. Looking at the rest of their schedule, the Redskins game this weekend could be a trap game after the emotional win on Monday Night Football yesterday.
Still, I just don't see the supposedly good Washington defense being able to stop the NFL's No. 1 offense.
Other than that, if Matt Ryan comes back for their December 13th matchup, they may be able to hang with the Saints, but I doubt the Falcons can overtake them, especially considering their special teams in flux with Jason Elam being released and replaced by Matt Bryan.
The Vikings meanwhile will be trying to navigate through two first place teams—at Arizona this Sunday on Sunday Night Football and against Cincinnati the following week. A Saints loss to the Cowboys would cause the Vikings to leap them should they survive.
Finally, the Saints close out against two teams that will all but roll over in the improving, but still no-match divisional "rival" Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the similar, hapless Panthers who have already quit.
Meanwhile, the Vikings will play a pissed off underachieving rival, the Bears on Monday Night Football on the 28th in what could be a trap game in cold Chicago where Favre may have trouble throwing. They then close out against an equally underachieving Giants team that even though they historically dominate (as 2000 shows) anything is possible.