The one thing separating decent teams from playoff teams is the ability to win on the road.
There is a reason teams have a home-field advantage. They’re sleeping in their own bed the night before the game. The home crowd is dialed up and, in many cases, fueled up. Audibles for visiting quarterbacks don’t come easy.
When they’re on the road, it’s a completely different story. The crowd is against them. They wake up, look around and it takes a little while to figure out the surroundings.
The difference between decent teams and playoff teams is that playoff teams win games on the road. The basic premise of any season is quite simple – go 4-4 on the road and do your business at home.
Under that scenario, the Mike Zimmer Administration is keeping up a frustrating tradition in Minnesota.
Zimmer had coached 20 games as the capo de capo in Minnesota.
His career record is 9-11. He’s 7-3 in front of the home fans. He’s 2-8 in unfriendly environs.
This is nothing new to the Vikings experience. The best season, without question, that the Vikings had in recent memory was in 2009. That season featured Brett Favre on a weekly basis sticking a dagger in the hearts of Packers fans as he racked up the wins. The Vikings posted a record of 12-4.
They went 8-0 in front of the homies. They went 4-4 on the road.
That was a great team.
Since then, it’s been a different story. In 2010, the Vikings went 2-6 on the road and Brad Childress got fired. In 2011, they went 2-6 on the road (and 1-7 at home) as the franchise hit bottom. In 2012, they made the playoffs on the back of Adrian Peterson. They went 3-5 on the road and 7-1 at home. In 2013, the Vikings decided that Leslie Frazier wasn’t the man the lead the team forward. In that fateful season, the Vikings were 5-3 at home and 0-7-1 on the road.
Not a single return plane flight was celebratory and Frazier got craned.
In his first season as the Vikings’ newest head coach, Zimmer’s Vikings went 5-3 in front of the home fans, winning the last three. They went 2-6 on the road, continuing a difficult trend that was in place for years before Zimmer arrived.
As things currently stand, in their time at The Interim Bank, the Vikings have won five straight games. They have also lost five straight games on the road.
Perhaps more troubling is that they haven’t won a divisional road game since Sept. 30, 2012 – winning at Ford Field in Detroit.
When the Vikings return from their bye week, they will face Kansas City at home. If recent indicators mean anything, the Vikings will be favored to win that game.
Following that, the Vikes will have consecutive road games at Detroit and Chicago.
Can the Vikings reverse the trend that, while significant change has taken place on Zimmer’s watch, getting off the schneid of losing road games remains a franchise issue that has yet to be reversed.
The Vikings came close to making a statement of that reversal in Denver. They didn’t. They are going to have the chance in the next month to cement their place as a legitimate contender. To do that, they’ll have to start winning on the road.
Until then, keep your popcorn in abeyance.