We’re basically a quarter of the way through the season, so it’s time to step back and evaluate what’s happened so far. I’m going to do it in two parts: a look at the NFL today, and a look at the Vikings’ tomorrow. So what have we learned so far about the Vikings’ competition for a playoff berth?
1) Da Bears are really good. While Shaun Alexander didn’t play for the Seahawks (he won’t be back until Oct. 22- take a wild guess who they’re playing), da Bears defense wasn’t the major surprise of the game. We already knew their defense was good, so shutting down an Alexander-less offense is par for the course. What was surprising was da Bears’ offensive performance. They looked like they were playing the Lions or Packers. I’m not yet ready to anoint them the favorites (the Eagles have looked good as well) in the NFC, especially since every game Grossman starts through the rest of the season will set a new season best for him. And they’re having problems running the ball, which serves to emphasize how important Grossman is to them. Without him, they’re just the same team as last year.
2) There are two reasons I’m still optimistic the Vikings can make the playoffs. The first is their schedule. Their ten remaining opponents are a combined 19-21 so far, and they get to play the 1-3 Packers and 0-4 Lions twice. The second is that their competition mainly consists of teams from the NFC South and NFC East, two of whom they own the tiebreaker over. The only possible wild card team from the NFC West, the Rams, has to come to the Metrodome the last week of the season. So even after the horrendous loss to the Bills, the Vikings are still in the driver’s seat. And that’s why their schedule will be the MVP of the season if they make the playoffs.
3) The Vikings’ caught the Redskins and Panthers at the right times. Both have reeled off two straight wins, and both are looking like playoff quality teams. The ‘Skins offense put up 36 points on the Jaguars defense, while the Panthers beat a tough New Orleans team. If either team had played that well against the Vikings, they would have easily come away with the win. Luckily for the Vikes and their playoff hopes, they didn't.
4) The Brett Farve Interception Watch continues. He threw two last night, putting his season total at 5. He’s currently on pace to throw 20 for the season, which would leave him two short of tying Blanda’s record of 277. He can definitely still do it, but he can’t afford to have any more games without an interception. I have faith though. (Also, can someone please explain to the media that Brett Farve holds the record for most consecutive starts for a QUARTERBACK, not the record for most consecutive starts overall? That would be Jim Marshall’s record. It’s like people continually bringing up the third baseman with the most consecutive starts and never mentioning Cal Ripken Jr. )