There’s a saying that goes one is often best to follow a first instinct.
While there was nothing to go on but past performance, even back in April when the 2015 schedule was released, observers were quick to point out that the final seven games the Minnesota Vikings were going to play would be formidable.
Upon initial inspection, the phrase most often heard was surprisingly, “Woof!”
Humans making pet sounds is rarely positive. It wasn’t in this case.
From the week before Thanksgiving to final burn-off of ’Sconny New Year’s Eve hangovers, the knee-jerk response to the Vikings closing schedule was foreboding at a minimum.
Green Bay. At Atlanta. Seattle. At Arizona four days after Seattle (second “Woofs” were reported – an offshoot of a double-dog dare).
That gauntlet would be followed by the Giants and Bears at home, for dessert the Vikings get to head to Green Bay for a regular-season finale.
A case could be made the day the schedule was released that the Vikings had a death march down the stretch.
However, at the same time, one could have made the case of a daunting schedule that might have included a closing run of Baltimore, San Diego, Indianapolis, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans or San Francisco.
Now? Pass the gravy.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Nightmare Before (During and After) Christmas is upon them. Their predicted gauntlet of opponents has come true and the Vikings are going to face a weekly war from here on through.
The wild card in all of this is that the Vikings took care of business against most of the teams they were supposed to beat. Even die-hard Vikings fans would have been hard-pressed to predict the Vikings would have come out of the gate with a 7-2 record. Going 4-3 in the final seven games would leave the Vikings at 11-5 with division title capability. Going 3-4 in the last seven would put Minnesota at 10-6 and most likely in the playoffs.
The first game of the brutal stretch run didn’t go as planned. Green Bay flexed its muscle and brought a game plan the Vikings couldn’t overcome. Now comes Atlanta.
The Falcons are a good team, but, like Green Bay, they are losers of four of their last five games and are beatable. Others have proved that. Now it’s time for the Vikings to get their piece of the Falcons.
Buckle up, Vikings fans. This is going to be the scenario every week. The Seahawks. The Cardinals. The Bears. The Giants. The Packers in a road rematch. Every week there’s going to be an opponent the Vikings can beat, but also caution against the dangers they bring.
Back in April, the second half of the Vikings’ schedule looked ugly. Seven months later, it doesn’t loom any less brutal. If the Vikings are going to make the playoffs, they’re going to earn it. Every team they play is either in the playoff hunt or looking to crash the Vikings’ playoff party. There will be no free passes from here on out.
Are the 2015 Vikings a playoff team? We’ll know by Jan. 3 at the latest, but what we do know is that they control whether or not they make the postseason. The only scoreboard watching they need to do is the score of the game they’re playing. We knew this was coming. Now that it’s here, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the sledding would be tough as autumn turned to winter.
Get your snow cones ready.