I keep looking for the silver lining in the 2010 Minnesota Vikings season, but that's a tough sell. After nine games the Vikings have a 3-6 record meaning they've lost two thirds of the games they have played this season.
To say that my optimism is wearing thin would be an understatement.
If this were a rebuilding year that would be one thing, but this is a veteran team with so many Pro Bowl players you can't swing a cat without hitting one. Experienced players, who are some of the best in the NFL at their respective positions, playing this poorly is hard to fathom. No matter how we break down Sunday's loss to the Bears in Chicago it simply amounts to more of the same stuff that's plagued the Vikings all season.
Despite a hopeful, if not electric, start, Sunday's game quickly devolved. Considering the dramatic way the Vikings won against the Arizona Cardinals, suddenly playing the way they did last season, I held onto hope as long as I could on Sunday. Somewhere in the fourth quarter I quit taking notes on the game and started hopping around the room because if the Vikings were going to wage a comeback, they needed to do it right then. Well, on Sunday there was no comeback.
More after the jump, like why the Vikings need to make what they can of this year.
Regardless of Chicago's record, they aren't really that good*. However, they didn't have to be that good, they just needed to be a little better than the Vikings and the Vikings have been making that far too easy for opposing teams. The secret to Chicago's success on Sunday isn't surprising or complicated, they converted on third downs, they had good returns from kick-offs and punts, they had receivers, and they scored in the red zone. Oh, and because it was their home field, they knew what cleats to wear to keep from slipping all over the field like Larry, Curly, or Moe at an ice rink.
I could look at the rest of the stuff that went wrong on Sunday, but I just don't have the energy or the discipline for that kind of systematic misery. If the Vikings are going to make any kind of attempt to salvage this season, they have to win every remaining game, meaning the best they can do for the season is a 10-6 record. If they were playing every upcoming game in the Metrodome, that might be possible, but they won't. They would have to win on the road to end the season at 10-6 and they haven't managed to win on the road since November 2009.
The way this season is going, it seems a safe bet that Brad Childress won't be the Vikings' coach next season. A new coach generally means that at least a third of the current roster will be gone next season, but it could be more considering all the veterans the Vikings have. And, as if that wouldn't bring enough uncertainty to next season, there is also the storm brewing between the NFL and the Players Association because of the collective bargaining agreement. Whatever happens next season, the Vikings will look very different.
But before any of that happens there are still seven more games this season. If this Vikings team is going to continue to try to turn things around, they don't have much time. If they are just going to phone it in and wait for next season, it's a mediocre eternity.
If the Vikings continue to play the way they are playing now and winning only at home, then they would win four more games and end the season 7-9. But, if they somehow manage to win all of the next seven games (not a strong possibility, I know), the Vikings might be in the running for a Wild Card spot in the play-offs. I don't like seasons when the Vikings have to rely on getting a Wild Card, too many other things have to go their way for that to happen. Luck has been hard for the Vikings to come by and I wouldn't expect luck to suddenly make a convenient appearance at this late hour. And, honestly, the Vikings need to start making their own luck. With all of their talent, you'd think they would have an advantage in that department.
No amount of uninspired play calling should excuse the lackluster play, the missed tackles, the failed third-down conversions, or the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Even if Vikings players have changed their mindset from trying to win games to clock watching until the end of the season, the way they finish 2010 will tell teams considering signing Vikings players a lot about what they can expect from these players. Even if they aren't interested in helping this team win anymore, players can't honestly think that sub-par play will help them in free-agency.
Between self-interest and pride, one would hope that the Vikings could find a way to pull together and play the way they are capable of playing. If they can't, then the next seven games will be pointless.
*I still maintain that the Lions should have won when they played the Bears on Week 1 of the season. The officials in that game robbed Calvin Johnson of his game-winning touchdown and I refuse to acknowledge it as a Chicago victory.
This piece is also posted at http://chinspeaks.wordpress.com/ under my alter ego P.M. Chin.