The Vikings aren't sure where they will play their final "home" game next Monday night after the collapse of the Metrodome roof. The assessment of the damage at the Metrodome continues.
The Vikings season has been filled with more twists and turns than a "I wouldn't take that" mountain road shortcut. Throughout it all, the dysfunctional Vikings family had a home. Until Sunday morning. When the roof caved in on the Metrodome, it might have caved in on the craziest season in recent memory for the Vikings.
Not only are the Vikings not going to be hosting the Giants on Monday night – Detroit gets that free privilege, which begs the question what sort of fan is going to show up in Detroit to watch two teams they don't like? – but there are significant questions as to what to do next Monday when the Vikings are scheduled to host the football world for the Monday Night Football largesse. Initial word out of TCF Bank Stadium is that the field has been put to bed – ice-encrusted mothballing if you will – and that not only wasn't it an option for tonight, but it may well not be an option for next Monday either.
The top Teflon minds from throughout the country have been called in for pseudo-summit to determine the viability of the Metrodome roof, which, to its own credit, hadn't come down in 28 years. It got a scare in 1986, but for the most part, it hadn't been subjected to a recent Snowicane. It survived the three-day blast of 1982. It had survived the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, serving as a port in the frozen storm for high school playoff football forced off knee-deep fields with 10-foot drifts in the north end zone. But this time the Metrodome became the open-air stadium Metropolitan Stadium used to be and the field finally had something in common with the Mall of America – they both played host to an outdoor stadium.
The initial indication is that the implosion of the Metrodome might be the impetus for Legislators to get off their hands and do what is necessary to grant the decade-plus long plea from the Vikings to get a new stadium deal done. The thought that there could have been 65,000 constituents inside, especially given the proximity to the I-35W bridge collapse tragedy a mile away, will get them to fish or cut bait and let the Vikings go play where the greater concerns involve earthquakes, not snow.
The situation is very fluid. The game was postponed, then relocated for this week. What happens next week? It's unclear if anyone can accurately answer that just yet. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the league has experience with short-term relocation of games. Hurricane Katrina altered life in New Orleans and the bond between the Saints and the city was cemented by that tragic event. Hurricane Ike forced a quick relocation of the Texans from their Houston home. So, there was a precedent to moving NFL games. But, with the uncertainty of whether the Vikings will be able to play the Bears at the Metrodome, TCF Stadium, Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis or a parking lot in Dinkytown remains up in the air.
It seems only fitting that in a season filled with such turmoil, the walls didn't come crumbling down, but the roof fell in.
Lost in the surreal moments that unfolded Sunday was a report that Brett Favre doesn't believe he will play tonight and that his streak of 297 consecutive starts will end. If that was 100 percent true, one would question why he would make the trip to Detroit with the team. He isn't going there to be de-activated. He may not start, but, it's been 298 games since he was the No. 2 quarterback – sorry about that injury, Don Majkowski, whose own mini-legacy got erased before the ink was dry in Green Bay. ESPN's Ed Werder quoted Favre as saying, had the game been played as scheduled Sunday, he wouldn't have played.
The Vikings could have been eliminated from postseason contention with a win by the Green Bay Packers Sunday, but both the Packers and Bears got beat. Chicago got pounded at home by the Patriots in a wind-swept smackdown and the Packers, who lost QB Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter, scored just three points in a 7-3 loss at Detroit. Vikings fans denied watching their own team play got both games on TV…well, sort of. The Patriots-Bears game became such a laugher that the powers that be in New York deemed it better to send most of the country that was watching the game to a "more competitive" game – the Dolphins-Jets 10-6 yawner. As such, a win tonight would put the Vikings back into the "still alive" fringe of the playoff bracket tables.
The Vikings aren't happy with the Redskins special teams unit. With both Atlanta and New Orleans winning Sunday, they're all but assured to be in the playoffs. The third-place Bucs have been an invisible franchise that has found itself devoid of national exposure – it could be argued that if the Bucs had been scheduled for a Sunday night game this week, they would have been opted out. But, with a 17-16 win Sunday over Washington, the Bucs are 8-5 and, arguably, the most fraudulent playoff contender outside of the NFC West. Their 2010 success is directly related to their schedule. Consider their 13 games. Their eight wins have come against Cleveland (5-8), Carolina (1-12), Cincinnati (2-11), St. Louis (6-7), Arizona (3-10), Carolina (1-12), San Francisco (5-8) and Washington (5-8). Their five losses? They have come against Pittsburgh (10-3), New Orleans (10-3), Atlanta (11-2), Baltimore (8-4, they play tonight against Houston) and Atlanta (11-2). It doesn't take much in the way of informed analysis to realize that the Bucs are what they are – they beat teams with losing records every time and they lose to teams with winning records every time. Unfortunately for them, they aren't going to get to play a team with a losing record if they make the playoffs. The strange thing is that, if they follow their history in the final three games of the season, the Bucs will finish 10-6 – their remaining three games are against Detroit (3-10), Seattle (6-7) and New Orleans (10-3), which will likely have its playoff berth assured and may rest its starters. It's not unlikely that the Bucs, a team with no business in the postseason, could finish 11-5.
Sunday's loss by the Packers could be the death knell for their own playoff hopes. Unless the Vikings can knock off the Giants tonight, the Packers will be behind whichever team (New York or Philadelphia) doesn't win the division and at a current tie-breaker disadvantage with Tampa Bay in the Packers' search for a wild card spot. Making matters worse, their final three games are at New England, currently the hottest team in the league, at home against the Giants and at home against Chicago. They must win two of those three at a minimum to make the playoffs and may well need all three.
As hard as it may be for most of them to stomach, the Packers and their fans need to become Vikings fans really quick. Green Bay's best shot at getting to the playoffs may well end up being winning the division. There is a very good chance that the NFC North will produce just one playoff team. The Bears' closing schedule has games at Minnesota, vs. the suddenly-desperate Jets at Soldier Field and at Green Bay. If the Vikings can knock the Giants down into a tie with Green Bay at 8-5 and beat the Bears next week, the Packers would level the playing field in terms of tie-breaker advantages in the division and the conference. At it currently stands, from head-to-head to division record to conference record, Chicago holds every edge on the Packers. Green Bay's loss to Detroit was devastating, so, just as the Vikings have become desperate for a 20-game domino effect to happen in the next three weeks to make the playoffs, the Packers may have just about as significant a hill to climb, leaving them hoping the Vikings play as well as they can and Green Bay's season sweep comes into play.
It will be interesting to see how many fans take the Vikings up on their offer to get their tickets for Sunday's game upgraded to 50-yard line seats if they travel to Detroit for the game. Tickets will be given away to local Motown fans wanting to see the game for free.
ARAMARK, the dining partner at Mall of America Field, donated the food prepared for Sunday's game with the Giants to Twin Cites Second Harvest Heartland, a food shelter that distributes food to needy families.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.