Of the 16 teams in the NFC, how many do you suppose had a record of better than .500 on the road? Try one.
The New York Giants finished the 2008 season with a 5-3 road record, which could explain why they finished with the top seed in the NFC playoffs. The Vikings were among four teams that finished 4-4 on the road last year, along with the Redskins, Panthers and Falcons. Of those four teams, three of them made the playoffs.
Things were markedly different in the AFC, where apparently winning on the road is a little easier than it is in the NFC. Nine teams finished with records of .500 or better on the road, including all four teams from the AFC East. It should be noted, however, that those teams got to play the dismal NFC West in non-conference competition.
A whopping five teams finished with 6-2 road records, including Miami, New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Indianapolis, while Baltimore checked in with a 5-3 record. Of those teams, the only one that didn't make the playoffs was New England, who missed the postseason despite posting an 11-5 record.
The Vikings have struggled on the road mightily in recent years, which can be viewed as a reason why their division title last year was their first since 2000. For whatever reason, the team struggled to win games on the road and it was reflected in their record. Last year, the team turned a corner and won the division, thanks in no small part to elevating themselves to a .500 team on the road.
A look at the Vikings 2009 schedule shows road games against the Browns, Lions, Rams, Steelers, Packers, Cardinals, Panthers and Bears. While not the easiest slate of games, it isn't a Murderer's Row either. Three of the games will be played in domes (Detroit, St. Louis and Arizona) and the only game that should have any potential awful weather implications will be their Dec. 28 trip to Chicago.
If there is a secret to success in the tightly contested NFC this year, it may well be the ability to win on the road. Only one team was able to post a winning record last year and they were the favorites to win the Super Bowl (the Giants). If the Vikings can prove once again that they can be road warriors – a task made somewhat easier by half of their road opponents having lost double-digit games last season – repeating as the division champ may be a little easier than it might appear at face value.