The Vikings are scheduled to break ground on their fancy new stadium sometime in 2013 – a stadium that will likely have a retractable roof of some kind. That obviously means some of the games at the new joint will be played outdoors.
Suggestion: the Vikings might want to work on their "outdoor game" between now and the projected opening of the new digs in 2016 because, well, their record outside of domed stadiums hasn't been so hot the last several seasons. Another suggestion: this might be a good week to begin whatever it is they have to do in order to find a winning formula outdoors.
The Vikings are 5-15 in their last 20 outdoor road games. Throw in the snowy game played at TCF Bank Stadium on Dec. 20, 2010 against the Bears and they are 5-16 in their last 21 outdoor games. Of those games, 10 were played with a game-time temp of less than 50 degrees. The Vikings won only three of these "cold" games: once against the Eagles (Joe Webb's finest moment) in December of 2010 and twice against the Redskins (in 2011 and 2010).
Oh sure, the Vikings will probably close the roof at the new stadium if the weather gets inclement or the temperature falls below, say, 50 degrees. That's what retractable roofs are for. However, they won't be able to close the roof at Lambeau on Saturday night.
Here's where those of us who are old enough to remember might start waxing nostalgic about the glory days at the old Met when opposing teams used to dread coming to play here in the cold. Bud Grant banned space heaters on the sidelines. The players didn't wear gloves… heck, some didn't even bother with long sleeves. Many teams were psychologically defeated the minute they stepped off the plane.
Have the Vikings gone soft?
I wouldn't ever go that far. These are tough guys capable of enduring all kinds of pain, punishment and uncomfortable conditions. NFL players are, by and large, anything but soft.
However, there is something to be said for not being used to playing on grass or overcoming cold, wind and precipitation. The Vikings played 11 indoor games this season. If you don't play outside very often, it's hard to get quickly acclimated to things like bad footing and wind once the conditions get a little sketchy.
Yes, the Packers will be playing in the cold on Saturday night as well. The game time temperature is projected to be in the 20's. The Packers players are, for the most part, more used to those kinds of conditions, but it's not like it's always 20 degrees and snowy on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. We all know it can actually be pretty nice in terms of football weather in this part of the world through much of October, oftentimes longer. Bottom line: the cold and wind will affect both teams.
The numbers don't lie, though. The Vikings' record is abysmal outdoors. Moreover, they have won just once in their last six visits to Green Bay.
Leslie Frazier apparently has the troops practicing this week with the doors open and the air conditioning cranked at the Winter Park practice facility to replicate some of the cold conditions they'll be dealing with on Saturday. That's great, but it's going to take more than that to overcome the malaise the Vikes generally find themselves in when braving the elements.
As if it's not enough they have to contend with the game's best quarterback and play in a hostile environment against a team that rarely loses at home, the Vikes have to overcome this losing trend in games played outdoors. And make no mistake: 5-16 is a strong trend. Vikings fans better hope Frazier devises a game plan for winning outdoors in the cold between now and Saturday night.
Who knows? He just might. Not many people thought the Vikings would win their last four games of the season, but they found a way. If the Vikings have proven anything this season, it's "expect the unexpected."