Under ordinary circumstances, a home date with the Detroit Lions is the penance Minnesota Vikings fans with season tickets have to pay for landing the God spot that gets the Packers game.
It’s the Lions. They are what they are.
The Vikings-Packers rivalry has dozens of recent seminal moments that define the rivalry. The Bears have home-field dominance, not a mere advantage, over the Vikings. The Lions? Perhaps Dan Orlovsky running out of the end zone to avoid a Jared Allen calf-roping is the lasting memory.
But, make no mistake. In every season, there are must-win games.
That term has become cliché because too many people believe every game is a must-win game.
Guess again, slappy.
A year ago at this time, the Vikings were 5-2 – fresh off a rare and streak-breaking win at Soldier Field. Ironically, they were 60 percent of their way into a five-game winning streak that had the Kool Aid/Purple Drank crowd yelling “Skol!” and turning a liquid into an airy refillable vessel.
Chips were in the pot. All in!
A year later, Vikings fans find themselves in reverse polarity. What was once good now sucks. If the Vikings win Sunday, they’re at 6-2 midway through the season and all is good in this locality.
If they lose? Wave all tie-breakers goodbye.
If Green Bay runs the table on Chicago and Detroit, the Week 2 win over the Packers is meaningless. Sound familiar? Green Bay was in a one-and-done scenario to win the NFC North last year because they lost to Chicago and Detroit – at fabled Lambeau no less.
Keep in mind that Green Bay’s win over the Lions at Ford Field last year was improbable at best. It’s an NFL Network promo to explain the importance of football on non-Thanksgiving Thursdays in outlandish uniforms.
The Vikings will play the Lions on a traditional Thanksgiving Thursday in 18 days after their first meeting at Ford Field, where the Lions have a much better track record of winning than they do in Minnesota.
With a victory Sunday, the Vikings will keep the competition in the division at arm’s length and keep their divisional tie-breakers in play. With a loss, they will have two divisional losses, drop to 5-3 and it will be a free-for-all for the division title in the second half of the season.
Must-win may sound a little exaggerated for the eighth game of the year, but, when the season ends, some games mean more than others and this will be one of those games that you can look back at as being a critical one in determining whether the Vikings repeat as NFC North champs or the game that typified the free fall of the 2016 Vikings.
It doesn’t get much more critical than that.
- As part of honoring the men and women of the U.S. military in the NFL’s November “Salute to Service” initiative, the Vikings will unveil a POW/MIA seat at U.S. Bank Stadium. The black seat will remain unfilled and guarded by current military members.
- Sports Illustrated named its midseason All-Pro team this week and Harrison Smith was the only defensive player unanimously named to the team.
- The Vikings worked out former Patriots running back Jonas Gray to potentially upgrade the Vikings running backs stable under the new Shurmur offense.
- Lions right tackle Riley Reiff has missed practice all week with an undisclosed illness. The expectation is that Corey Robinson may be in line for his first career start, which could make Brian Robison a player to watch Sunday.
- Lions tight end Eric Ebron has a thing for shoes … a big thing for shoes. It extends to the football field. On Sunday, Ebron will break out a new pair of cleats – something he does for every game. But this one will have some deep significance. He has shoes custom-designed made for every game. Sunday’s will be a tribute to his grandfather and father. His grandfather, Oling R. Jackson, served his country in three wars, earning him the nickname “Lucky.” Both his grandfather and father were Marines.