Even those members of Vikings nation that chugged sufficient quantities of Purple Kool Aid this offseason to convince themselves that 10 wins and a trip to the playoffs were in the cards for their favorite team probably didn’t think they had much of a chance of leaving San Diego with a win in Week 1. Thus, even though the second-half collapse left a bad taste, the loss itself was not a huge surprise.
Week 2 was a little different story. While the Buccaneers are a team with realistic playoff aspirations, they didn’t go to the postseason last year so most optimistic Vikings fans likely viewed the contest as eminently winnable. And a 17-0 halftime lead reinforced that expectation to all but the most jaded, fatalistic Vikings fans (read: almost all Vikings fans, yours truly included).
Teams with 10 wins in their future aren’t supposed to blow 17-0 halftime leads at home against borderline playoff teams.
So for those of you who went through the Vikings’ schedule prior to the season and forecast a win or a loss for each game to arrive at your 10-win prediction (and you know who you are!), some recalibration is in order. That Bucs game was supposed to be a “W” for a 10-win Vikings team. This means the Vikes need to steal one that they aren’t supposed win later in the season to offset the blemish and stay on course for the playoffs.
It also means the Vikings are losing any margin for error.
For example, losing on Sunday at home to the Detroit Lions simply can’t happen if you want to maintain your Vikings playoff-prediction with a straight face and any shred of integrity. Teams that start 0-3 don’t make the playoffs. Teams that lose to the Lions at home aren’t supposed to make the playoffs.
Like last week’s game, this Sunday’s game was marked down as a win on the preseason 10-win forecast.
Does that make this Lions game a must-win game for the Vikings?
Logic would seem to tell us it’s too early in the season for a must-win game, but is it? If the Vikings are going to be playing games the second weekend of January, don’t they simply have to win this one?
Of course, these are no longer the “lowly” Lions. This is a Lions team that has won six straight regular season games dating back to last year (including a win over the Vikings in Week 17 last season). From that perspective, this should in no way be viewed as a slam-dunk regardless of the Vikings’ 20-3 record against them over the past 12 seasons.
In fact, last week’s game against the Buccaneers was probably more of a slam-dunk than this week’s contest with the Lions. Even so, the Lions game is still marked down as a “win” for those who forecast 10 Vikings’ victories.
So I’ll ask it again: is this a must-win game for the Vikings?
Those that would argue that it is not a “must win” might point to the Vikings’ remaining schedule. The Vikings still get to play the Chiefs, who are making a strong case to be this year’s “worst team in the NFL” as well as the Panthers, who were last year’s worst team. They also have remaining games against the Cardinals, Raiders, Broncos, and Redskins. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Vikings win every single one of those “winnable” games. That’s still just six wins.
That means they would need to also take one of two from the Bears and sweep the Lions to get to nine wins. They’ll need one more “W”.
Does anyone have a Vikings’ win forecast for either one of the games against Green Bay? How about the Saints or Falcons? A 10-win season means the Vikings need to steal one of those games that they won’t be favored to win.
In light of their 0-2 start, their remaining schedule, and a 10-win expectation, Is their game against the Lions a must-win? If they lose to Detroit is it time to pack it, put Christian Ponder under center and prepare for next year? Or is it too late for any hope regardless of how they fare this Sunday against the Lions? I’d love to see some comments from Vikings fans on both sides of this, so make your case.
Bo Mitchell is VP of content at SportsData, editor of the Maple Street Press Vikings 2011 Annual (on newsstands now!), and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell