Winning on the road in the NFL is hard, but if you want to go to the playoffs, you have to consistently do just that. That’s not a big secret, of course, since teams play half their games away from home, and rarely will an 8-8 record get your ticket punched to the post season.
Mediocre teams win their home games, but playoff teams win their home games and on the road.
There have been a lot of reasons as to why the Vikings have been mostly mediocre but a handful of times since Dennis Green was let go in late 2001. Sometimes the offense was bad, or one dimensional. Sometimes it was the defense not being able to stop anyone consistently. Other times it was a combination of both, but do you know what the common theme in all of this was?
That’s right, road games. For the most part, the Vikings, for a really long time, have been terrible when playing on the road. Let’s take a look at how the Vikings have fared on the road since 2001:
*Post season appearance
There should be one thing that jumps out at you here:
In the first 14 years of the 21st century, the Vikings didn’t have a winning record on the road. Until the 2015 Vikings went 5-3, they hadn’t had a winning road record since...wait for it...1998.
Even in 2009, the one year that was far and away their best in this century, they only went 4-4.
For all the success that Dennis Green has as head coach of the Vikings in getting to the playoffs (8 times in 10 years), he only had three winning seasons above .500 on the road: 1992, 1993, and 1998. In his six years as head coach, Jerry Burns failed to finish above .500 once.
Winning on the road in the division has been an issue for the Vikings as well. Again, going back to 2001, this is their road record against NFC North rivals:
Well, thank goodness for Detroit, AMIRITE GANG? The last time the Vikings consistently won on the road was during the birth of the Purple People Eaters. From 1968, the first time the Vikings went to the playoff under Bud Grant, until their last NFC Championship game appearance under Grant in 1977, the Vikings never finished below .500 on the road.
That’s 10 straight seasons of better than .500 football away from home, and it’s really no coincidence that in that time the Vikings won an NFL Championship, three NFC Championship games, and went to the Super Bowl four times.
I’m not saying that the Vikings are on par with that near mythological era. I am saying that in four years Mike Zimmer has been above .500 on the road in two of those seasons, and both those seasons resulted in a playoff spot.
If they beat Green Bay tomorrow, they’ll finish 6-2 on the road. The last time they had at least six road wins was in 1998. They advanced to the NFC Championship that season, is all I’m sayin’.
If this team can continue to consistently go above .500 on the road, this could be a special time in franchise history. The Vikings have one of the best homefield advantages in the NFL, and if you can pair that with a team that can regularly win on the road, they’re not only going to be a perennial playoff team, they’ll be in the hunt for homefield advantage, too.
Skol Vikings, beat That Team From Wisconsin.