If you’ve watched the NFL long enough, you can find a reason for wanting most teams in the league to get beat. But for Minnesota Vikings fans, some teams elicit those feelings more strongly than others, and this week’s divisional playoff game between the Cowboys and Packers creates a particular problem for the Purple Faithful: who to root against.
Let’s be honest, there really is no cheering for the Dallas Cowboys or the Green Bay Packers if you are Vikings fans—there is only one concern: which team do you want to see lose more? This is not just my personal conundrum--writing as someone who still twitches a bit at references to the 1975 Drew Pearson push off play known as the original “Hail Mary.” There are people all over the internet saying how they might not watch the Packers-Cowboys game because they don’t want to see either team win. It’s a problem.
But speaking of the Vikings 1975 divisional playoff game against the Cowboys, visions of that play certainly came to mind last Sunday when the Cowboys beat Detroit in a game that involved another “no-call.” Actually there was a call, but then the referees got together, reminded each other which team was supposed to win and then picked up the flag.
I am kidding, of course. I was not privy to their discussion, and you can be sure it didn’t include the words “ . . . which team that was supposed to win.” The officials are better at favoring a team than that, they have been doing it for years, right? Perhaps the zebra huddle went a little more like this:
Ref 1: “I’ve got pass interference on number 59. He hit the receiver’s shoulder and never turned to find the ball.”
Ref 2: “Are you sure? Besides, this call isn’t reviewable, so maybe you need to rethink that.”
Ref 3: “The receiver’s hand went near the defender’s facemask, but I didn’t get a great look. Could have been hands to the face or facemask.”
Ref 2: “No, we don’t want to go there—that’s not our point of emphasis. No call here is good enough.”
Ref 4: (Joining late) “Hey, 59 grabbed the receiver’s jersey. Did you guys get that hold?”
Ref 2: “No, we’ve already decided. Pick up the flag.”
In reality, the next day the head of NFL officials said the Cowboys got away with one as Hitchens held Pettigrew, and the complaints of Dallas favoritism increased ten-fold.
So there is the ’75 Hail Mary. There is Dallas stealing the North Stars from Minnesota. Add to these instances the decades-long (self-proclaimed) notion that the Cowboys are America’s team, and there are plenty of reasons to root against Dallas.
Not enough? They have five Super Bowls, and owner Jerry Jones’ insistence that he is the team’s coach (constantly roaming the sidelines at the end of games when the work is done) and general manager (he wanted Johnny Manziel but was overruled and the team took guard Zack Martin, who helped them reach this game). That’s enough for me.
There’s just one problem, however: the Cowboys are playing the Packers.
If I listed all the reasons there were to root against Green Bay, I would still be writing this piece up until game time. So we will cut to the chase: the constant reminders from Packer fans of their team’s 13 NFL titles. They don’t need anymore, and we don’t need to hear it. I am sure you all have Packers fan story that riles you up every time they play the Vikings (feel free to include it below). They should be sent packing.
So what are we to do?
Let’s look at it strategically. We don’t want either team making it to the Super Bowl where they have a chance at another title. If the Cowboys win a sixth, they are tied for the most Super Bowl wins with the Steelers and would have the most Super Bowl appearances with nine. If the Green Bay wins, it’s like being Punxsutawney Phil and there will be six more months of nuclear winter listening to Packer fans. Vikings fans will feel like crawling into a gopher hole.
We can’t have either in the Super Bowl; both must go. So, how best to accomplish that?
The Packers play at home, so they have an advantage—both with the crowd and the weather. But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is hobbled by a left calf injury and hasn’t practiced much during the team’s bye week. When Rodgers is down, the Packers are vulnerable.
The Cowboys on the other hand, are one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of their last five games. They are more balanced than in recent years, and their offensive line is protecting quarterback Tony Romo and blocking well for running back DeMarco Murray. They just might be the bandwagon to watch ride on down the road (for heaven’s sake, no jumping on).
The key is to figure out which team will lose to Seattle. The Seahawks will most likely handle the Carolina Panthers (who were 7-9-1 in the regular season but are on a five-game winning streak of their own) and host whoever comes out of Lambeau Field with the win.
Both the Cowboys and the Packers played the Seahawks in Seattle this season. The Packers were beaten badly (36-16) on opening night of the season, but that was before Rodgers told everyone to “R-E-L-A-X” and the team started playing more like the preseason Super Bowl favorites that they were. They did, however, have a spot of trouble with the Buffalo Bills tough defense late in the season, so they might likely struggle again against the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom.”
Meanwhile, the Cowboys beat the Seahawks at home (only Seattle’s second loss at CenturyLink Field in the past two years). That, of course, was wide receiver Percy Harvin’s last game for Seattle and the peak of the team’s early season dysfunction. But it is worth mentioning, however, the Cowboys were also undefeated on the road in 2014.
It would make sense then, that the Cowboys have a better chance to win in Seattle than the Packers, so we want to cheer for the Pac . . . there is no cheering for the Packers (especially since Rodgers cost me a fantasy football playoff win in the Buffalo game after an undefeated regular season). We want to cheer against the Cowboys on Sunday.
That won’t be so bad. It’s always fun to root against the Cowboys, right? And the Packer fans will think for one week that we have joined forces with them and might lay off on telling us how they are “owners” of the best franchise in NFL and Lambeau is sacred ground, and they have the 13 titles, etc., etc.
We will just have to withstand one more week of “Go Pack Go” before they go away for good in the NFC title game. Can Vikings fans live with that, can’t they?
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Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.com, covers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.