Much to the surprise of a lot of national sports media, it is not the Green Bay Packers at the top of the NFC North, but our upstart Minnesota Vikings. I don't know if you got this vibe at the beginning of the season too, but it seemed like there was a pervasive idea among experts that, while Mike Zimmer's team was improving, the Packers would lead the division all season and go to the Super Bowl. They would be closely followed in the division by the Detroit Lions whose quarterback Matthew Stafford would sling the ball to Calvin Johnson repeatedly and the Detroit defense would be okay without Ndamukong Suh. And the Chicago Bears, well, no one ever really knows what they are going to do. When mentioned, the Vikings were going to have to try to challenge Detroit for second place.
Yet here the Vikings are on top of the division after a nice post bye-week winning streak, sporting a 7-2 record and three wins in the division. The prematurely crowned 6-3 Packers are struggling after three straight losses, the latest loss was at Lambeau Field to a team with only two wins this season. Detroit has been lit up so badly on their way to a 2-7 record that post-season house cleaning started in mid-season, firing their offensive coordinator, two offensive line coaches, the general manager, and the team president. As for the 4-5 Chicago Bears, they are still a mystery of general mediocrity with flashes of both horrible and brilliant play.
At 7-2 the Vikings have the same record as NFC West leaders, the Arizona Cardinals and AFC West leaders the Denver Broncos. The only teams with better records than the Vikings are the unbeaten Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals*, and New England Patriots.
As Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was quick to point out, that doesn't mean anything. And he's right, mostly.
To the team, being on top of the division when you still have seven games to play doesn't mean anything. It's nicer than being on the bottom of the division, but it doesn't automatically get them to the postseason. However, to the fans and the world of sports media, this is kind of a big deal. It displays the vulnerability of the Packers as a projected Super Bowl frontrunner and it represents a major misread for the media who seriously whiffed on their guess regarding how the Vikings would progress in Zimmer's second season as head coach.
To me, the Vikings' fete doesn't seem to be garnering significant attention around the league. Despite Minnesota's wins, talking heads are more interested in discussing how the Dallas Cowboys might rebound after Tony Romo returns, or how the Seattle Seahawks can overcome their struggles to challenge the Cardinals in their division. The struggles of "America's Team" and a team that has been to the Super Bowl the past two years are interesting, but, seriously, the Vikings are winning and, for the past three weeks, the Packers haven't been. It represents the potential for a major power shift in the division. In the NFC North, we call that a big deal.
Maybe it's the esthetics of the Vikings' wins that keep them from being talked about as one of the teams to watch?
Sure, Teddy Bridgewater is struggling to connect with his receivers, going 14/22 for 140 yards and one touchdown against the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Vikings are tossing the entire offense on 30-year-old Adrian Peterson much more than they should. Sure, the Vikings defense sometimes allows teams to mount comebacks in games where they should have completely shut down the opposing offense. Sure, Blair Walsh's field goal attempts haven't been as automatic as in his first season with the Vikings.
And yet, despite the lack of style points, the Vikings still win and are still on top of the division
It surprises me that the Vikings' bandwagon isn't more crowded. Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner are both highly respected coaches. The Vikings are amassing and coaching up young talent like five 2015 rookies who are already regular contributors on the field: TJ Clemmings, Eric Kendricks, Stefon Diggs, Trae Waynes, and MyCole Pruitt. And veterans like Chad Greenway, Terence Newman, Joe Berger, and Adrian Peterson are still getting the job done.
So, as we head into Week 11 with the Vikings home game against the Packers flexed to a later start time, I say the faithful, long-suffering Vikings fans who have weathered a lot of substandard performances in this rivalry since the Zombie Favre year of 2009 should indulge in just a bit of hype. I know, we're Vikings fans and we anticipate having our joy ripped from us so we tend to rip it away before we have a chance to get attached to it, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to enjoy the moment.
In the spirit of enjoying the moment, I say we indulge in a longship party mix as we look forward to Week 11. This is not a contest, this is a playlist. I can't stress that enough so I'll just say it again. This is not a contest, this is a playlist.
If you have a song that you think fits the mood of this division-leading (for the moment) Vikings team as they prepare to face the (at least temporarily) dethroned Packers, include it in the comments below with a link to the song on YouTube. If your song gets six recs or more in the comments section, it goes into the playlist. Yep, that's it. Since the songs that are listed in the comments section first tend to get the most attention and the most recs, you'll want to post your song quickly so it makes it onto our playlist. Feel free to campaign for your song, make your case for why you think it is great and needs to be in the playlist. This is for fun, so don't be a douche and crap all over someone else's song choice. There is no set limit on the amount of songs on the playlist, so vote for as many songs as you like. Voting will close Thursday at noon and I'll publish the playlist on Friday.
I'll kick off the playlist with a song that fits my mood as the Vikings prepare for Week 11. Could have gone with Gogol Bordello's "Start Wearing Purple", but I'm in more of a Fitz and the Tantrums mood today.
Can't wait to see what the DN public submits for this playlist!
*At the time this story was originally posted, the Cincinnati Bengals hadn't yet lost. They are now 8-1.