Suddenly, Nothing Is Certain in Minnesota
Two large events occurred since then. Not only have the Vikings stopped assuming they are the team to beat, the events instilled nothing but the same uncertainty that Vikings Nation has been accustomed to in the last decade.
Monday night, the Saints put together one of the best game plans seen this season, demolishing the Patriots 38-17 in a game that solidified what we had suspected all along: Not only is the dynasty of Bill Belichick and the Patriots probably over, the Saints are now the team to fear. A 21-point victory was not only unexpected, it was downright horrifying for anybody not wearing gold-and-black to see.
That game may have removed any doubt that the Saints are the team that everybody must get through for a chance at punching a ticket to South Florida come February.
And for Vikings fans, it was unbearable. Why are the Saints winning like this? It was almost as if they were saying, "Why can't it just be us?"
Yet the kool-aid continued to be served. A Friday article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune compared this team to the 15-1 Vikings in 1998 that lost in the NFC Championship thanks to, of all things, a missed field goal by usually-automatic Gary Anderson.
Now, there is no such feeling in Minnesota.
After seeing the Cardinals outplay the Vikings in essentially every category Sunday night, nothing is sound.
Brad Childress is back to being the goat. He's no longer the genius that some called a candidate for coach of the year. Calling Adrian Peterson's number just 13 times probably didn't help, either.
The infallible and untouchable Brett Favre? Two interceptions and one that should have been. If there's one thing the Cardinals helped the rest of the league discover, it's that a consistent pass rush might be the antidote to an old quarterback that hates being in a hurry.
Adrian Peterson himself isn't looking like the unstoppable force he once was, either. The third-year superstar is gaining just 3.0 yards per carry in his last three games, and does not have a 100-yard rushing performance since Week 10 against Detroit.
Of course, it's also worth mentioning that the team must operate defensively without captain E.J. Henderson--a loss that mandates somewhat of a major restructuring in the Vikings' defensive game plan.
No, nothing is a guarantee anymore for the 10-2 Vikings, who, outside of a miracle, could do no better than the two-seed they are currently at now.
It's especially not a guarantee given that their cupcake schedule is well behind them. They cannot dwell on the Cardinals loss at all, as now they must prepare for a battle with the surprising Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals have the league's fourth-best defense and will probably pose even more of a threat to Favre, if not more, than the Cardinals did.
After Sunday, the Vikings have two easier (but not fool-proof) games at Carolina and Chicago. But the season finale is home against the Giants, and with New York unlikely to secure or lose their playoff spot before that game, two more losses appear to be a very plausible outcome for Minnesota.
Have you done the math yet? That puts them at four losses. Should the Cardinals manage to beat San Francisco, Detroit, St. Louis, and Green Bay, or otherwise win two more games than the Vikings, things change substantially.
While unlikely, it would certainly turn the team upside down. And remember that last week, there was no answer for the Vikings at all. Now look again.
Especially in Minnesota, things can change in a heartbeat. Wait and see.
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