The 2015 season may well become known as the Tale of Three Seasons for the Vikings.
The first season is over. 2-0 at home. 0-2 on the road. Sound familiar?
It has been a steady refrain for the Vikings of recent vintage that they can find ways to win at home and find ways to lose on the road. They beat teams at home that they shouldn’t beat. They lose to teams on the road that they should beat.
It has happened too often over the last decade to be ignored. Even in their 2009 run to the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings lost five of their last six road games. It’s what they do.
But, as the Vikings return to action this week, they have an opportunity to make some noise as to what this team will be – for better or worse – in 2015. Yet, the next five games will include three games on the road. The crazy part of the equation? They may be road favorites in all three.
They are going to need to put up some gaudy win-loss numbers in the next five weeks, because the road to the playoffs is going to include a late-season minefield of opponents.
In the next five games, the Vikings don’t face a team with a winning record. Sunday’s opponent at The Interim Bank is Kansas City. The Chiefs have a 1-4 record and that was with Jamaal Charles.
Up next is Detroit, the only winless team in the NFL at 0-5 and a team looking to avoid being the second team to go winless in a 16-game season, which, ironically, was Detroit.
After that comes Chicago. The Bears are 2-3 and have won their last two, but it has come against Oakland and Kansas City.
The Vikings return home to face 2-3 St. Louis. The Rams have beaten the Seahawks and Cardinals, but are 0-3 outside the division. At last check, the Vikings are outside their division.
Next up is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders lose on the road. It’s what they do and they do it well, even with the Cousin Oliver-coiffed owner Mark Davis inexplicably calling the shots. They do few things consistently. Piling up road losses is one of them.
The Vikings can get fat over the next five games. 5-0 is possible and should be the goal. 4-1 seems very possible. 3-2 may be a disappointment.
Why are next five games so important for the Vikings to sop up the gravy with a biscuit? Because the final seven games will be the NFL equivalent to the Bataan Death March.
As things currently stand, the final seven games of the Vikings’ 2015 schedule is as brutal as any team is going to face. Sure, injuries could change fortunes – the same way the Kansas City game looks a lot more favorable without Charles as the centerpiece of the offense – but as things stand at this point it will be the equivalent of going up against Mike Tyson in his prime.
The Bears at home Dec. 20 will be the Christmas present Vikings fans will relish. Other than that, it will be freshman hazing running down a hallway blindfolded getting hit with socks filled with dimes. It won’t be pretty.
Aside from the toothless Bears, the Vikings will play the currently 5-0 Packers twice. They will travel to the Georgia Dome to play the 5-0 Falcons, who, with any luck, will be able to put enough fans in the seats to come close to the announced crowds that they claim are cheering for the home team.
Then there’s Seattle, arguably the best 2-3 team in the league. Fortunately, the Vikings will be playing them at home. The 12th Man will be left behind. Thus far, being on the road means losing for Seattle. Keep your fingers crossed.
Four days after the battle with Seattle, the Vikings go on the road to play 4-1 Arizona. The Cardinals have not only won four of five games, they’ve outscored their opponents by 100 points (190-90). Ouch!
Throw in the Giants, who lead the NFC East at 3-2 and you have another team capable of putting the smack down on you.
The Tale of Three Seasons has completed its first act. The Vikings were 2-2 in that period and fans aren’t getting negative – with the exception of being the only team that allowed San Francisco to look good.
The second act has the chance to be special. The Vikings will be the better team on the field every game, despite being at home just twice. They can pile up some crucial wins along the way, which will be needed.
The third act may be like the final seasons of Sons of Anarchy. The bodies will hit the floor early and often.
It all starts Sunday with the first of five games in which the Vikings will be favored and expected to win. It will end will seven games in which the Vikings will be underdogs in what is likely to be five of the seven at best.
Get your popcorn for this three-act play. It won’t be boring.