Sunday’s humbling 38-7 loss to Seattle brought back to light the inherent problem of a week-to-week sport like the NFL.
One week the Minnesota Vikings are the kings. The next week, they’re bums. There is little middle ground with fans. At noon, they think the Vikings are going to win every time. When they don’t, fans are somewhere in the range of angry, depressed, flummoxed, apoplectic and suicidal.
It’s ironic that, when the Vikings win, Mike Zimmer is all about his team being disrespected: They can’t do this. They can’t do that. They haven’t done this. They haven’t done that.
Yet, when the team gets their lunch handed to them by teams who have been there and done that, suddenly the Vikings thought they were too good or expectations were too high.
“We’re not quite as good as what we think we are,” Zimmer said. “Especially if we don’t play the way we’re capable of playing we’re definitely not as good as what we think we are.”
You can’t have it both ways.
The reality is that, other than a season-opening loss to San Francisco, the 2015 Vikings have won every game they should have. They’ve lost every game they should have.
What the Vikings have accomplished this season is impressive. Zimmer took over a team two years ago that was in shambles. He decided to bring in “Zimmer guys” to augment what the Vikings already had and took them from the league’s worst defense to one of the better defenses in one season. The team finished 7-9 and showed promise for the future in the first year of the system.
Had most people been told that a week into December, the Vikings would be 8-4, they would gladly take that in the second season. At last check, the Vikings are 8-4 and control their own playoff destiny.
The Vikings have proved that they can win on the road this season, something they haven’t done with any regularity.
They’ve proved that against teams in which they’re favored to win, they take care of their business.
But, when it comes to cracking the glass ceiling into the level of the elite teams with a postseason pedigree like Denver, Green Bay and Seattle, they haven’t reached that level yet.
They will be underdogs against Arizona Thursday for one simple reason – Arizona is a better team in 2015. They’ve proved that time and again this season. But, after Arizona, the Vikings have home games against the Bears and the Giants. If the 2015 season has taught us anything, those are two games the Vikings should win because they’re the better team.
If that happens, and the Vikings enter the final game of the regular season 10-5 and their final regular-season game against the Packers will be for the NFC title, another chance for the team to prove it belongs up there with the big fellas.
Zimmer has alternated all season claiming the Vikings are better than their doubters claim, but not as good as their proponents claim. The reality of their situation falls somewhere in the middle.
The Vikings have proved they have a defense strong enough to keep them in just about every game. They’ve also proved that they don’t currently have enough balance and firepower on offense to blow away good teams.
Sunday’s loss to Seattle was a reality check as to where the Vikings stand in the pecking order of the NFL. Their three losses since Week 1 have come to three of the four teams that earned first-round playoff byes last season. There’s no shame in losing to those teams.
The truth is that the Vikings are a team on the climb looking to get the “chip and a chair” chance to make noise in the postseason. They’ve had the opportunity to climb into the ranks of the elite, but when facing teams that have been there and done that, they haven’t been able to make the leap to the next level.
It’s not an insult. It’s just the way it is in 2015. Maybe next year will be different with a team that still appears to be on the rise. But, as of right now, the Vikings are who we thought they were – a very good team that is knocking on the door of greatness, but still on the outside looking in.