What a Script Vikings May Write
What a story it will be. A moment in state history that will be remembered by almost every Minnesotan—even a few that don’t even know the abbreviation “NFL.” The Vikings could fulfill a dream that dates back to the 1960s.
Next week the regular season begins in Minneapolis against the Saints. The Vikings need to successfully get through the regular season, win a couple of playoff games and then there it is—the Super Bowl in U.S. Bank Stadium.
The AFC can send its goliath, the Patriots, or an intruder like the Steelers. It won’t matter. The Vikings can come full circle, finishing as Super Bowl winners in front of their fans—in their stadium.
Mark Dayton might watch the postgame celebration from a seat that costs $20,000 in the “people’s stadium.” The Wilf brothers will jump up and down like little boys. Bud Grant may crack a smile. Fran Tarkenton will scramble on the field to congratulate Sam Bradford. Alan Page might philosophize about football’s relationship to the community.
The franchise’s legacy of faltering in the biggest games will be exorcised. The four Super Bowl losses in the 1970s were painful, but many Vikings fans weren’t alive when all that happened. The collective hurt is more palpable for the NFC championship game loss (at home) following a 15-1 regular season in 1998. Another nightmare finish was the playoff loss in 2010 to the Saints who with back alley shenanigans put a stop to the Vikings’ Super Bowl itinerary.
The Purple have been cursed for a long time. Maybe it was all part of a cosmic scheme to bring glory in 2018. Not only could the Vikings win their first Super Bowl next year, but they can become the first team ever to do so in their home stadium.
Perhaps the football gods have been scripting this story for awhile. Multiple elements are so perfect including the career coach Mike Zimmer, the straight talking defensive wizard who never had a head job in the NFL until the Wilfs hired him and hoped he could become Bill Parcells. A season ago Zimmer suffered the pain and anguish of eye issues, and has under gone multiple surgeries, but the 2018 Super Bowl could be his reward.
The biggest of stages can vindicate general manager Rick Spielman who enters this season with more than the usual number of eyeballs scrutinizing his work. A year ago he gave up draft choices to acquire Bradford from the Eagles. Winning the Super Bowl with Bradford and a whole roster Spielman assembled will quiet the critics who make a hobby of analyzing his draft choices over the years for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2010.
There will be those who scoff at this Super Bowl prophecy, but be reminded greater minds share the vision. The Pioneer Press reported last month comic turned senator Al Franken predicts a Purple win over the Patriots next February. And back in 2015 Bob Lurstema, the ever optimistic former Viking, saw his favorite team in the 2017 Super Bowl. So what if he was off by a year?
Lurtsema, by the way, could have many phone calls to return next winter. For years his voicemail greeting has teased he will return calls after “the Vikings win the Super Bowl”—then adds, well, maybe not that long.
But not so fast, my friends. Sports Headliners is now having second thoughts.
Are the Vikings really good enough to make a Super Bowl run? Yeah, Zimmer is going to confuse offenses with gap packages and other goodies in his tool box, and gotta like the defensive personnel, too. The front seven ranks with the better groups in the 32-team NFL and the defensive backs compare with the best, too.
The Vikings top half dozen players might all be defensive guys, starting with the safety most everybody wishes they had, Harrison Smith. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes is coming into his prime years and monster defensive tackle Linval Joseph is generally underrated but not by the Vikings. Linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks impress with athleticism, and defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter can be league leaders in sacks.
The offense, though, makes a writer hit the pause button on the Super Bowl script. Yes, if Bradford can play like last year, he won’t be THE problem. He set an NFL record for completion percentage, 71.6 percent. He also showed more than accuracy, displaying Houdini-like timing avoiding hordes of tacklers rushing through the team’s leaky offensive line.
That line is what should keep Vikings fans awake at night. If there was such a thing as an NFL auction for personnel, talent evaluators would label the Vikings’ offensive linemen as either mediocre based on past performance, or unproven. That’s not a formula for Super Bowl optimism.
Bradford’s strong and accurate arm, and his drop back timing, could get the offense out of many jams. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will again be productive and favorite receivers. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook has potential to create the long gainers any balanced offense needs.
A subplot to the season could be the impact of Minnesota native Michael Floyd, the first-year Viking suspended for the first four games. How about a story ending in the Super Bowl where the veteran wide receiver catches the winning touchdown pass?
Sorry, don’t think it will happen. The Vikings might go 10-6 and make the playoffs, just like they did two years ago after an 11-5 regular season. But it takes more imagination and preseason optimism than this keyboard has to see a parade down Hennepin Avenue following the Super Bowl.
Let’s plan on a first or second round playoff loss derailing the Super Bowl train. And what team will dash Purple hopes?
The Packers, of course, who will not only cross the border to beat the Vikings in the playoffs, but again when they travel to Minneapolis to play in the 2018 Super Bowl.