Boo-Birds Poised for Vikings Sunday
Mike Zimmer likes to implore Vikings fans to make U.S. Bank Stadium incredibly noisy to distract the opposing team’s on-field communications. But Sunday those purple-crazed and skol chanting fans could turn on the head coach and other key Viking figures.
With three games left in the season, the 6-6-1 Vikings are precariously positioned for earning their way into the playoffs. Win out the rest of the way and the Vikings—who were among offseason 2019 Super Bowl favorites—will finish 9-6-1 and become an NFC Wild Card entry in the playoffs. Mixed success in upcoming games at home against the Dolphins and Bears, and away at Detroit, will spell out a less certain path as Minnesota competes with the Seahawks and other NFC clubs trying to earn one of the two wild card entries.
No need to be a Drama Queen to see that Zimmer and others with key roles for the Vikings are on the spot while results are determined over the next three games, starting with the Dolphins game Sunday. With the offense stagnant in recent games, it won’t take much for those frisky Vikings fans to scream jeers instead of cheers.
After firing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo this week, Zimmer, general manager Rick Spielman, quarterback Kirk Cousins and interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski could be judged harshly Sunday. Fans in the stadium and watching on TV will be looking for a productive offense, and if they don’t see one guess which individuals will be targeted? Fans will be watching to see if there is imagination and execution with the game plan. Scrutinized, too, will be impact play calls in the red zone, or on third and fourth downs.
Cousins signed on for this kind of pressure when he accepted the Vikings $84 million contract offer earlier in the year. Spielman made the veteran free agent close to the highest paid player in the NFL, but Cousins and his Vikings teammates have yet to defeat a team with a winning record this season. He sometimes looks slow to process what is happening on the field and he can either be unable or unwilling to make plays with his legs. An interception or two will have the boo-birds on high alert and at high volume on Sunday.
The Wilf family won’t be booing Sunday if things go poorly, but make no mistake Zygi and his relatives are passionate fans. They are also serious business folks who have approved one of the NFL’s higher player payrolls and bankrolled state-of-the art practice and office facilities.
Spielman hired Zimmer in 2014 and he has been at work for the Wilfs since 2006. Spielman has upgraded the personnel in multiple areas, yet doubts remain about the quarterback position and offensive line. Zimmer is working now with his fourth offensive coordinator, with very mixed results over the years including last season when the Vikings under Pat Shurmur earned a 13-3 record even with a patchwork offensive line and substitute quarterback.
Earlier this season Spielman and Zimmer terminated rookie placekicker Daniel Carlson after he missed three field goals against the Packers in the second game of the season. The 29-29 tie haunts the Vikings as does an inexplicable 27-6 home loss to the lowly Bills.
Spielman made Carlson a fifth round draft choice earlier this year. Six years before he selected kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round, and he is best remembered for missing a gimme 27-yard field goal that would have defeated the Seahawks in the 2016 playoffs in Minneapolis.
These are serious things, past and present. On Sunday the Vikings can erase some of the frustration, or they can write an ugly script. Their zealous fans and expectant owners will watch intently. The guess here is the Vikings will win, by 10 points or more against a Dolphins team that isn’t their equal in personnel.
But it’s been an unpredictable season with too much potential for boo-birds.
The Bears, 9-4, can clinch the NFC North Division title with a win over the Packers Sunday, or a Vikings loss to the Dolphins, or if Chicago and Minnesota play tie games this weekend.
ESPN analyst Anthony “Booger” McFarland, talking about Danielle Hunter after the Vikings defensive end made a sack against the Seahawks on Monday night: “His arms are as long as the Mississippi River.”
Minnesota Wild forwards Marcus Foligno and Nino Niederreiter will sign autographs at the new Hockey Lodge Southdale location in Edina from 6 to 7 p.m. tonight (Friday). Fans can bring pre-owned merchandise for signing—with merchandise also available for purchase. Only a single autograph per player is allowed.
In last Friday’s Worth Noting, a reference to George H.W. Bush’s humility and grace drew comments from readers who agreed the late President conducted himself in a manner much different from many showboat athletes and other public personalities of today. Among readers who responded was Denny Schulstad, a retired Brigadier General in the Air Force and former Minneapolis City Councilman: He wrote the following:
“…These highly paid athletes and entertainers just don’t understand what people like President Bush did for them to protect their freedom and right to act like jerks. I was with President Bush and (wife) Barbara on several occasions. Nothing but the highest respect for them—even when we might disagree on an issue. He was a military hero and a statesman.”
Former Spring Lake Park football player E.J. Ejiya, a senior linebacker at North Texas, has been selected to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on January 19 at the Rose Bowl. Scouts and other representatives from all 32 NFL teams are expected to attend practices and evaluate players in the all-star game that showcases draft eligible players. Over 40 of the 112 players who participated in the 2018 game received invitations to the 2018 NFL Combine, and 19 were selected in the league draft.
Ejiya and his North Texas teammates play Utah State in Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl. He ranks fourth nationally in tackles for loss with 23 and leads the Mean Green in sacks with 9 (fourth in C-USA).
The full roster of players for the NFLPA Bowl, including possible Gophers, is expected to be announced in early January.
Billy McKinney, the former Timberwolves front office executive, posted on Facebook this week that he filed to run for mayor in his hometown of Zion, Illinois.