The Minnesota Vikings have one of the youngest teams in the NFL with an average age of 25.83 years old. This means that a lot of players have not had the experience of playing in a playoff game and even fewer have the experience of hosting a playoff game. The last time the Vikings made the playoffs was three years ago and the last time they won the NFC North was in 2009.
Since so many players have never experienced the position the team is currently in, there is plenty of excitement radiating through the locker room. Defensive end Sharrif Floyd almost described the feeling they have as an addiction.
Last week they were able to travel to Green Bay and play in a game for the division title. It was a playoff atmosphere, as the winner of the game would get to host a first-round playoff game, and now the players want more.
“Definitely, and a lot of our guys, it’s our first time even being in the playoffs or even winning a division title,” Floyd said. “So that feeling alone last week made everybody see like, we like that feeling, and if we can do it again, make it happen again, let’s just see where it goes.”
While being excited to be in this position can often be a bad thing, an over-excited team will often tend to be tenser come game time and that can lead to them committing more mistakes. That is why so many people talk up the value of playoff experience. If a team can truly treat the playoffs just like any other game then they will likely be better off.
It is still early in the week of preparation, but the Vikings seem to be handling their excitement well. They appear to be channeling it into having good practices and improving what they need to before their Sunday game, or at least that’s what quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seems to think.
“You can tell that the guys’ focus is totally different,” he said. “Coach (Mike) Zimmer said something this morning in the team meeting, ‘Now you’re playing for trophies and rings, not just banners’. Hearing that, it lets you know that it’s go time. I walked in the facility this morning and the guys were locked in. Those guys have that intensity, that look in their eyes that they want to get it done.”
Heading into last Sunday’s game against the Packers, players in the Vikings locker room were talking about how it was a t-shirt and hat kind of game, meaning that they were playing for the right to wear clothing that said they were the division champions.
Zimmer was clearly trying to step up the intensity this week by saying they are now playing for more and his message seems to be resonating through the locker room.
“We got through one of the goals we set as a team and now we got a new one,” Floyd said. “We got another goal ahead of us and we’re trying to see what we can do with it.”
There are going to be a lot of things going against the Vikings this weekend when they take the field in the first round of the playoffs. One of the biggest is controlling their excitement and not trying to do too much against a very good Seahawks team.
The stakes have been increased to a level that not many of them are used to and it will be interesting to see how they can handle playing for more than just banners.