When the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, there were some "experts" out there that felt that the Vikings had been "exposed" by the Cardinals on national television. And it turns out that they were right. . .the Cardinals had given everyone an exact blueprint for defeating Minnesota. It turns out that all you need is
a) Kurt Warner
b) Anquan Boldin
c) Larry Fitzgerald
d) to hope and pray that the Vikings play their worst game of the season on the day you play your best game of the season
If you can combine all of those things, then you stand a pretty good chance of "exposing" the Minnesota Vikings. Thankfully, it appears that only one team in the NFL can put that combination of things together. . .and if the Vikings see them again, it will likely happen in Minnesota and not on the road.
But this leads to the bigger point. . .many of those same people wondered if the Vikings could beat "good" football teams after the way they looked against Arizona. And, yes, the Cardinals are a very good (and maddeningly inconsistent) football team. But so many people simply want to point at Minnesota's allegedly weak schedule when criticizing their performance that it's about time we take a little closer look at this. Trust me, it should provide a good laugh for everybody.
If you take a look at the NFL standings, you'll see that there are seven teams that have won at least nine games through the first 14 weeks of the year. . .the New Orleans Saints (13-0), the Indianapolis Colts (13-0), the Vikings (11-2), the San Diego Chargers (10-3), the Cincinnati Bengals (9-4), the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4), and the Green Bay Packers (9-4).
The Vikings have played three games against the teams in that group, two against the Packers and last week against the Bengals. They're 3-0 in those games. How have the rest of the teams on that list done against that group?
New Orleans: 1-0 (defeated a McNabb-less Eagle team in Week 2)
Indianapolis: 0-0 (haven't played a team yet that currently has at least 9 wins)
San Diego: 1-0 (defeated Philadelphia in Week 10)
Cincinnati: 1-1 (beat Green Bay in Week 2, lost to Minnesota in Week 14)
Philadelphia: 0-2 (lost to New Orleans in Week 2, lost to San Diego in Week 10)
Green Bay: 0-3 (lost twice to Minnesota, lost to Cincinnati in Week 2)
These are the kinds of teams that playoff teams will see when the post-season comes around. Yes, the Vikings have gotten the benefit of something of a weak schedule. . .by that token, so have the Packers (since their schedule is basically identical to Minnesota's). By that token, so have the Colts, who have gotten four games against Houston and Tennessee. . .and those teams don't scare anybody, regardless of who tries to tell you otherwise. . .and a few games against some other bad teams as well. By that token, so have the Saints, since outside of New Orleans, the NFC South might be the worst division in football.
In the post-season, we're not going to be seeing the Houston Texans or the Tennessee Titans or the Atlanta Falcons or teams of that ilk. We're going to be seeing the best of the best. In fact, if the playoffs started today, the worst team (based solely on record) that would get an invite to the party would be the 7-6 Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC. The worst NFC teams that would make the playoffs are the 8-5 Cardinals and the (currently) 8-5 Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, the Vikings have played some bad teams this year. . .I'm not going to try to argue that they haven't. But when they've had the opportunity to face off against the best of the best, they've answered the bell. And they've answered that bell better and more often than any other team in the NFL to this point in the season.