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Stock Market Report: NFC Championship

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I didn’t see this coming. At all.

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m really at a loss for words. I mean, I sat and watched this horror show unfold, from beginning to end, just like you guys did. I saw Philly go up and down the field with ease, time and time again, and at some point I just sort of became numb to it all.

I knew it was over at halftime, but it still wasn’t registering for me. How could a defense this good, in every major statistical category, get completely demolished by an offense that is good, but not 1998 Vikings offense good?

Then it hit me. We kept talking about how great this defense was, and then started comparing them to the Purple People Eaters. And for a lot of fans who weren’t alive for or are too young to remember the Super Bowl era...this game was essentially how the Vikings played in their Super Bowls. So...now you know.

Minus ever having a lead.

The Minnesota Vikings were dismantled 38-7, on both sides of the ball, and by halftime the game was essentially over. But hey, they almost played a good game and almost made it to the Super Bowl, where they almost would have ended their post season demons, didn’t they, Bowling For Soup?

I almost got drunk at school at 14

Where I almost made out with the homecoming queen

Who almost went on to be Miss Texas

But lost to a slut with much bigger breastes

I almost dropped out to move to LA

Where I was almost famous for almost a day

And I almost had you

But I guess that doesn’t cut it

Almost loved you

I almost wished u would’ve loved me too

Your SMR that almost has some good things to say follows.

Blue Chip Stocks:

My smoked ribs: Oh, you thought I might put a Vikings player here? LOL no. When you have that kind of performance with the stakes that high...and fall that flat? It’s the day after, and I’m still trying to comprehend just how poorly the Vikings played with a trip to the Super Bowl...in their home stadium...on the line. The best part of my day yesterday, other than watching the game with a good buddy of mine, was this:

I used a rub called ‘Victory Formation’ (IRONIC RIGHT) from Tailgate Master, our very own Admiral Big Gun’s company, smoked them for four hours, and they were like the Vikings first drive of the game—perfect and exquisite. I even have left overs for lunch today!

Solid Investments:

Jerick McKinnon, RB: Overlooked in the beating was that McKinnon had over 120 yards from scrimmage, and was the only guy on offense consistently making a play to keep the offense moving the ball. With McKinnon becoming a free agent, Latavius Murray essentially on a one year deal, and Dalvin Cook coming back, there might be some changes coming to this backfield, and the only one I am sure is returning is Cook. I’d love to see all three back, but I don’t know what the future holds. It’s not starting off all that great, though:

Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, and Adam Thielen, WR’s all: Thielen only had 28 yards on three catches, but was reportedly playing with several small fractures in his back. I have back issues and back pain is literally the worst, and I can’t imagine playing in an NFL game with that. Kudos to Thielen for gutting it out. For Diggs and Wright, they both made some big catches and kept hope alive for awhile. Even after the game’s conclusion was no longer in doubt, they were still fighting and scratching for extra yards.

Junk Bonds:

The Vikings defense: The most baffling thing to me was the utter collapse of what is statistically one of the best single season defenses in NFL history. They mostly throttled some of the best QB’s in the NFL this season, yet Nick Foles looked like Tom Brady, carved them up all night long, and the Vikings did nothing to adjust. Xavier Rhodes was off, Trae Waynes looked like week one TW and not the player that was emerging into a force across from Rhodes, Terence Newman finally looked 39, and Harrison Smith was out of position all night.

The best tackling team in the NFL whiffed on one tackle after another, and couldn’t get off the field on third down after setting an all time record for third down percentage. Zack Ertz roamed in the secondary like a college kid backpacking through Europe, Eagles running backs kept converting short yardage first downs, and by the third quarter it felt like the Vikes had brought back Leslie Frazier to coach this team.

It was a hell of a time to play, by far, their worst game of the season.

Either there were no adjustments made or the ones they did make were bad ones. Look, I can handle losing...I’m a Vikings fan. But the way a pedestrian QB carved up what is a really good defense is going to bother me for a long, long time.

Mike Zimmer and Pat Shurmur: Pat Shurmur is headed to New York to take the Giants head coaching job, and no, before we go any further, I don’t think that was a distraction. And no, I don’t think he called a vanilla game so the Eagles wouldn’t get a bead on his offense twice a year now that he’ll be in the NFC East. Seriously folks, there are some wild conspiracy theories out there, but I’m still a firm believer in Occam’s Razor—the simplest explanation is usually right, and the simplest explanation is that the Vikings got their ass kicked in the trenches all night on both sides of the ball. The Eagles offensive line protected Nick Foles and gave him a clean pocket to throw in on most every play, and the Vikings o-line looked a lot like 2016 at times. Both lines, which had played huge roles in a 13-3 season, fell apart at the worst possible moment.

Which brings me back to Shurmur and Zimmer. On offense, why didn’t the Vikings move the pocket more, or try and slow the rush with some misdirection? On defense, when it became apparent that the front four wasn’t going to get home, why didn’t the Vikings try to create more pressure with some blitzes before the game got out of hand? It was frustrating at how thoroughly out coached the Vikings were for the entire game, and it seemed like they felt that if they stuck to their plan things would somehow right themselves.

This is the second year in a row that the season has essentially ended on horrid defensive lapses at critical moments. Last year, the Vikes, even with everything that happened injury wise, were sitting at 7-6 with a realistic shot at the playoffs. But two blowouts, a 34-6 home embarrassment to an 8-8 Colts team followed up with what looked like a player revolt in Green Bay put the Vikes at 7-8 and out of contention.

This year? A blowout loss in the NFC Championship that rivals the infamous 41-doughnut game, with a chance to play the Super Bowl in your home stadium. It’s baffling how with that much at stake, the Vikings played that poorly.

Buy/Sell:

Buy: The first offensive series. It was thing of beauty, wasn’t it? Nine plays, one third down conversion, and Philly’s defense discombobulated and uncertain. When Case Keenum’s perfectly thrown ball hit Kyle Rudolph in stride for the touchdown, everything was unfolding perfectly. The crowd was already uneasy, the Eagles defense was sniping at each other after the play was over...and Nick Foles hadn’t even taken the field yet.

Sell: All remaining offensive series. Then the Vikings gave it all away on the next series. After forcing the Eagles to punt, the Vikings got the ball back and drove to the 41 after a big 12 yard throw to Diggs on third and 10. You could really, really sense momentum was starting to build for the Vikes, but after the pick six the Vikes just got steamrolled, and it felt like the offense was just going though the motions from there on out. Truly baffling.

Buy: This wasn’t Case Keenum’s fault. Even after the interception, the game was 7-7. The Vikings had been moving the ball, and were still in prime position to regain control and win. he made some throws, but not enough. The Vikings offensive line was probably the bigger culprit here, but to say Keenum was the reason the Vikings lost, and they should have put Bradford in feels like a really lame argument. Keenum is more mobile in the pocket, and I think putting Bradford in wouldn’t have given the Vikings a better chance to get back in the game, not with the way the Eagles were playing in Minnesota’s backfield all night.

On the sack fumble, he just got smoked from his blindside. If he had another half second, replays looked like both Rudolph and Thielen had broken open in the end zone, and I think a TD there changes the game. It’s now 14-14, and there’s a new momentum and a belief that if they could weather that beginning, they could still win in spite of everything.

Sell: The pick six wasn’t Case Keenum’s fault, and Keenum is hands down the Vikings QB in 2018. That was a terrible throw. Yeah, he was hit, but his arm wasn’t. it was a clean throw, and it was really underthrown. Even if he had a clean pocket the replays showed Thielen, his intended target, was bracketed and it had a very low percentage of being completed. He should have done anything else but throw the ball, and it really proved to be the turning point in the game. I don’t know what the Vikings are going to do regarding the QB situation as we head to the off season. Keenum had a hell of a year, but I saw this tweet and it’s something to consider:

I’m generally not a fan of the ‘well if you take this out’ or the ‘if you add this’ argument, but Keenum and the offense were mostly inconsistent to bad the last six quarters of playoff football outside of one play and the first drive of the Eagles game.

I still believe that only one of the three starting caliber quarterbacks will be on this roster on opening day next year. I still don’t know which one it will be, though, because you can make legit arguments for and against each one.

For Teddy Bridgewater, the argument for is that he was making progress before his knee injury, looked to have developed into a solid passer, and was thought to be the franchise guy for a long time. Now that he’s healthy, he should be good to go. The argument against him is that his knee injury is something that has affected him, and he’s not the same guy he was. He’ll never really be truly healthy again, and he’s not going to become the quarterback we thought he could be. Deactivating him for the playoffs was confirmation of that, his detractors will tell you.

For Keenum, his 2017 body of work was impressive. He took the Vikings a lot farther than anyone thought possible, played lights out almost all year, and that body of work has cemented him as the starter. The argument against is that he caught lightning in a bottle, and everything caught up to him from the second half of the Saints game. He showed himself to be the journeyman he was once the lights got bright and the competition got more difficult, and he’ll never get the Vikes over the top.

For Sam Bradford, he’s the best pure passer on the roster, and what he did week one was a tantalizing look as to what the Vikings offense could have been had he stayed healthy. Finally playing behind a good offensive line with weapons to utilize, he became a cold blooded assassin, picking apart what turned out to be a really good Saints defense with ease. The argument against is the status of his knee. It seems like it’s going to be a continual problem, you almost expect him to miss a handful of games every year, and there will be no continuity at the position.

Also, there’s this to add to the off season drama, so yay off season:

Buy: This was a really fun season. Last night sucked, make no mistake. But 13-3, a great defense (mostly), the Keenum story, and the Minneapolis Miracle all made for one hell of a reality show. 2017 is going to be remembered fondly as the years pass, but just not today. Thanks for a great season, guys, it was a heck of a ride.

Sell: I’m not allowed to be mad or pissed off. One of my biggest pet peeves are fans telling me that I can’t be mad about last night, and we should just be happy with the Minneapolis Miracle and going 13-3. Frankly folks, you can kiss my ass on that. This team was good enough to win it all, and I doubt they’ll ever get a realistic chance to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium ever again.

I’m pissed off that really good Vikings teams come up short and frankly don’t even bother to show up on the biggest stages, and I’m plain god damn sick and tired of ‘wait ‘till next year’. I’ve been waiting until next year for almost 50 years, and I never watched the Vikings win it all with my Dad, who almost more than anyone deserved just one Vikings Super Bowl win before he died. This goddamn team, man.

Buy: If not this year, when? They had the top defense which was an historically great one statistically speaking, a top 10 offense that could be as ruthless as it was efficient, a revenge win with a miracle finish against the Saints, an opponent that was missing their MVP-caliber QB, and a Super Bowl in their home stadium if they could beat Philly. It was set up perfectly for the Vikings, and it’s really hard not to feel that if they can’t bring it home with everything seemingly stacked in their favor...when will they do it?

Sell: The NFC Championship Game Loser Let Down. In the last five years, the team that has lost the NFC Championship stumbled and failed to make the playoffs the following season, save for the 2014 Green Bay Packers. It’s a cautionary tale about how fleeting success is in the NFL unless you’re the New England Patriots, but if there’s a team that can break this recent trend it’s the Vikings. They’re built to last and deliver us several more years of post season heart break before their current Super Bowl window closes.

They’ll solve their QB issue, and the defense will be back and still be really good. Yesterday’s effort aside, Mike Zimmer is still a great coach, and even though it looks like the Vikings have one of the tougher schedules next year, we all thought that this year and that turned out okay...until the very end. The Vikes are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC for awhile, and come week six or so, we’ll get fully invested.

Again.

And we’ll get our teeth kicked in.

Again.

Pudding and milk shakes will be on me, gang.

Skol Vikings.