Holler: Talent remains, winning ways don't

The 2013 Vikings have a strange feel. They have enough talent to win and have been in position to do that in almost every game. But the playoffs are past pipe dream and the losing ways could change the approach in coming weeks.

To be a Vikings fan right now is like being a boxer and half-heartedly looking over to your corner in hopes someone with throw a towel in the ring.

When the Vikings got the lead, fans held their breath and kept their celebrations tempered. They've been through this before. You don't count your eggs before they hatch and many a Vikings egg has turned rotten this year.

They came into Sunday's game at Dallas with the knowledge that, since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only one team that started 2-6 made the playoffs … and that was Cincinnati in the first post-merger year of 1970. In short, it doesn't happen.

Obviously, nobody at 1-7 has. The problem for the Vikings is that, unlike teams like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay that too often are being pummeled – so when they keep a team close like Jacksonville did with Denver and Tampa did with Seattle on the road, it's viewed as an achievement – there was no such moral victory for the Vikings.

The Vikings have led in the final minute of four of their eight games. They have led at some point in every game they've played, with the exception of the Carolina loss. They are a sad sack team that enters games with no chance of winning. Ironically, it can be argued that the Vikings have played better on the road than they have at the Metrodome. They should have beaten Chicago. They should have beaten Dallas, but they didn't.

As a 1-7 team, the only people believing the Vikings can potentially make the playoffs are mathematicians. It hasn't happened in league history. So where do the Vikings go from here?

For those watching the last drive when Tony Romo peppered the Vikings defense, players on the field included Andrew Sendejo, A.J. Jefferson, Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond and Marcus Sherels. Those are guys Vikings fans have typically seen on the field in fourth quarter of preseason games, not midseason games.

Every team has injuries. They hesitate to use them as excuses, viewing that as a sign of weakness.

When the Packers won their last Super Bowl, they had a M*A*S*H unit of injuries. That excuse doesn't hold water. Some teams find ways to win – Cleveland has turned its season around after beating the Vikings when the common conception was that the Browns were tanking 2012 in order to get a QB high in next year's draft.

The sad part about being a fan is that they want their team to win, but, at the same time, if they can't make the playoffs, the more wins they accumulate, the farther down their blue-chip draft pick in the first round goes. There has been a lot of fan debate as to how different the Vikings would be right now had they not beaten Washington without Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder in the second half late in the 2011 season. They would have been in a position to end up with either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. That win pushed them down to No. 3 and the point became moot.

You can bet the Vikings will never lay down and accept losing without a fight. The difference becomes whether the franchise will allow its key investments – from Adrian Peterson on down – to play if they're hurt. Players usually don't play when they're injured. But they do play when they're hurt, unless there is no reason to. What we may find now is that injured players won't be rushed back and the Vikings will start stealing players off of other teams' practice squads to give them a shot at making the 2014 roster.

While even the most cynical of Vikings fans was hoping they would win Sunday, they shouldn't stop hoping they win. At 1-7, fans are going to still want to see the Vikings beat down an opponent, but they won't be as emotionally invested if the lose. Fair weather fans have already checked out.

Unlike the fans of the Jaguars and Buccaneers, Vikings fans know there is enough talent on the roster to win. It just isn't happening and has snowballed in the wrong direction.

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.

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