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Sunday, September 18, 2005

What Were They Smoking?

Sorry, but I never drank the Vikings' Kool-Aid or smoked their brand of tobacco going into this season, as I couldn't see why everyone was so excited about a team that, without Randy Moss or a first-tier RB, somehow was going to get past Philadelphia, Atlanta and Carolina en route to the Super Bowl (as some had predicted). True, the NFC North was weak going into the season and got weakened further when the Packers lost Jevon Walker for the season last week. Yes, Detroit has some potential (they have three wideouts who form one of the most talented combinations in NFL history), and Chicago is rebuilding, so perhaps the Vikings were touted as the potential division champ by default (which shows how good people think Daunte Culpepper is).

That's one thing. But to anoint them as a team that could have gone further belied the facts. It's not like Bud Grant is coaching the Vikes, it's Mike Tice, better known for some iffy offensive play calling and creativity with complimentary tickets than coaching genious. And it's not like their transplants on defense have anyone forgetting the Purple People Eaters.

True, it's early to call it a season for the Vikings, but it's not as though they were the Eagles two years ago, who marched back furiously after losing their first home game to the defending Super Bowl champs (Tampa Bay) and losing their second game to the would-be Super Bowl champs (New England). The Vikings' losses don't compare to that pair. The Vikes lost at home last week by 11 to a rebuilding Tampa Bay team, and today were waxed in Cincinnati by a score of 37-8. And these aren't either Kenny Anderson's or Boomer Esiason's Cincinnati Bengals we're talking about either. Yes, the Bengals are an up-and-coming team that is doing a lot of things right, but they shouldn't be beating the Vikings by 29, should they?

Or should they? Maybe the Vikings just aren't that good. Maybe the team that wins the NFC North will be like the San Diego Padres, who just might win the NL West this year with a sub-.500 record. It could happen in the NFC North, too, even if the Bears put the Lions through the Veg-o-Matic today and beat them by something like 30 points. Could an 8-8 team make the playoffs when some 9-7 ones miss it? It could happen in the NFC this year.

Every year, the prognosticators get a pet team that they tout for amazing accomplishments. Last year, there was much pre-season hype surrounding, among others, the Buffalo Bills, who last time I checked sat at home during the playoffs. This year, the Vikings were that pick, and unless they shift gears quickly, they'll have plenty of free time on their hands once the regular season ends.

Sure, there are teams who have breakout seasons every year, that's true, but realistically that could more mean making the playoffs than traveling to the Super Bowl. Yes, the Vikings will get to Detroit this year, but only for their home-and-home series with their division rivals.


Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon said...

I confess. I did pick the Vikings to win the NFC North.

You referred in your blog to "Mike Tice's history of some questionable play-calling. Well according to Patrick Reusse's column today in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there is a chance that Tice will take over the play-calling from his "rookie" offensive coordinator starting next week.

That outta help!

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Losing Matt Birk at center probably hurt as much as losing Randy Moss, if you factor in as well how they affect the salary cap.

3:36 PM  

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