Every year, when the regular season schedules are released, we eagerly go through it and try to figure out wins and losses for the Minnesota Vikings. And every year, there are one or two games that you automatically chalk up as a win, and one or two games you look at and go, ‘well, that’s probably a loss.’
And almost every single year, without fail, the Vikings lose one of those ‘cakewalk’ games (oh, hi Buffalo), and they win one of those ‘ehhhhhhhh I don’t think so’ games. When the schedule came out back...whenever it came out (I’m too lazy to Google it, sorry not sorry), the two games I had pegged as a loss were the road games at Philadelphia and New England, like most everyone else. As the season has played out, though, the Eagles haven’t been nearly as good as advertised, so let’s say that one doesn’t count.
Well helloooo, New England. The game the Vikings have no shot of winning, because a Tom Brady loss at home is more rare than his alma mater beating Ohio State. Since 2001, the Patriots have become the most dominant dynasty in NFL history, and it’s even more remarkable when you consider today’s NFL has been set up to keep just that thing from happening, at least over this much time. But all good things must come to an end, do they not?
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like time is beginning to run out on the Patriots, and this remarkable run is close to pulling in to the station. Yeah yeah yeah, we’ve said that at the beginning of the year for about the last 3-4 seasons, but this year they just don’t look like...the dominant Patriots we’re used to seeing. Sure, they’re 8-3 and will win the AFC East for the 174th consecutive season, but there’s a realistic chance they won’t be either the number one or number two seed in the AFC for the first time in eight years (but seriously how ridiculous is that?!?!). Kansas City currently holds homefield advantage with a 9-2 record, and the Pats are second, at 8-3. But Houston and the LA Chargers (still weird to not write ‘San Diego’) are also 8-3, and Pittsburgh is 7-3-1, with a matchup against New England in a couple weeks.
Right now the Pats feel like one of the pre-WWI European Empires, like the Ottomans or the Austro-Hungarians, maybe even the German Empire. Yeah, they’re impressive as hell on paper when you look at what they have in terms of capabilities, but they’re aging and they feel ripe for the taking. They have a list of past accomplishments longer than a CVS receipt, but maybe, just maybe, once you get in a scrap with them and you prove you can hold your own, you can find their weak spot and you can bring the whole thing down.
Now let’s fast forward to WWII. One of my favorite movies is Patton, starring George C. Scott as the legendary American General. There’s a scene in the movie, right before the last German offensive of the War on the Western Front, which is known as the Battle of the Bulge, where Patton says:
There’s absolutely no reason for us to assume the Germans are mounting a major offensive. The weather is awful, their supplies are low, and the German army hasn’t mounted a winter offensive since the time of Frederick the Great — therefore I believe that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
At the time, the Allied High Command thought the Germans were finished. They’d had their ass summarily kicked since the D-Day landings in June, and the Allied advance was moving so fast they were outrunning their supplies of fuel and ammunition.
I think about that quote from the movie a lot, especially when the Vikings are scheduled to play a team they aren’t supposed to beat. Before Mike Zimmer came along, there were a lot more teams they weren’t supposed to beat on their schedule, and I never truly felt this way a lot...except against teams the Vikes supposedly had no chance against.
Anyways, in my mind I change the quote to match the Vikings current situation:
“There’s absolutely no reason for us to assume the Vikings are going to win in New England. The point spread is awful, their chances of victory are low, and the Minnesota Vikings haven’t won in New England since the time of Denny Green — therefore I believe that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”
So why the hell am I talking about pre-WWI empires, and movie quotes from a WWII general?
Because the Vikings matchup about as well as they ever have against the Patriots in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, and if they want to be considered a team that can legitimately go deep in the playoffs this year, or even MAKE the playoffs, a win right here changes a lot of narratives. I’m not going to go into a detailed game preview or breakdown; both Eric and Warren did far better than I could. But if you read those pieces, and you should, you come away with the sense that this isn’t 1914, or 2014, for that matter.
It’s 2018, or maybe the equivalent of 1918, for the Patriot Empire. They’ve been on top for a long time, and for a lot of fans, the Patriots being the preeminent Empire in the NFL is all they have ever known. But they’re teetering, and one good shot might be the catalyst that brings the whole thing down and re-draws the map of the NFL.
Skol Vikes, beat the Patriots.