If you paid any attention to the media last week, you would’ve noticed that virtually nobody gave the Minnesota Vikings a chance to beat the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome last weekend.
On one hand, that seems fair to me. The Superdome perhaps provides the greatest home field advantage in the league, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and no 13 win team had ever been eliminated in the wild card round of the playoffs. Add in Kirk Cousins, who has always struggled to win big games and a strong case can be made.
On the other hand, I was partially confused by everyone being supremely confident that the Saints would pull through. The Vikings talented roster seemed to be vastly overlooked going into that game. Most experts looked at the team down the stretch and the abysmal performance against the Packers and didn’t think they would be capable of winning a playoff game.
What they didn’t predict was the impact that a mostly healthy Dalvin Cook could have. They didn’t predict that Kirk Cousins wouldn’t shy away from the pressure and would out-duel Brees. They didn’t predict that the Minnesota defense would step up in a way that they hadn’t all season in order to stifle the Saints offense. They didn’t predict that Mike Zimmer would out-coach Sean Payton.
The NFL playoffs are simply exciting. Everything rides each week on one game, one play and one decision. The best regular season team doesn’t always come away with the victory. All you need is an invitation to the party and anything can happen. A three game winning streak can send you to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings have another tough opponent coming up and a similar narrative has already been laid out. The experts are saying virtually the same things as last week and giving the Vikings about the same chance to win.
Maybe the experts didn’t learn their lesson.
The San Francisco 49’ers are obviously a great team. They bring a top line defense to the table to go with a balanced offensive attack, relying on running the ball and giving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo plenty of space and time to throw. In many ways, they are built in a very similar way to the Vikings.
I would expect to see a very similar game this week to the game we saw last week. Tough defenses going to battle against offenses that are trying to grind out a win. As with most games, this week will be defined by big plays and turnovers. If Minnesota plays like they did against the Saints, there is no reason to believe that they can’t win this game.
Last week, all Minnesota Vikings fans were waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all had to be thinking the same things. Brees is going to win this game. Now we won’t win the coin toss. They’re going to call offensive pass interference aren’t they?
The Vikings have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, a solid quarterback and a great coach. Maybe, just maybe, this year can be different.