Most NFL fans will tell you that the preseason does not matter. Teams do not 'show' anything, often star players play little or none, and games often come down to 3rd and 4th stringers squaring off in the 4th quarter. So the fact that Minnesota is 0-2 is not alarming. Presently the Atlanta Falcons are winless this preseason. So are the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, a look at teams who are undefeated still in preseason (Seattle, New Orleans, Washington, Houston) is a who's who for prognosticators. Most experts have these four teams higher up in expectation. The Seahawks, maybe the NFC favorite to get to the Super Bowl, have outscored their opponents 88-30 in three games. The Redskins, another favorite to at least return to the playoffs, has outscored their opponents 76-41 in their three wins. Some teams and coaches have put an emphasis on winning in these tune-up games.
Minnesota has not.
In the third week of the preseason we fans finally get to see first team offenses and defenses for more than a series or two. Guys like RB Adrian Peterson show up. Not that AP wanted to sit out the first two games, I am sure he did not. But anyone who watched the first two games this preseason will tell you this offense more than needs Peterson. Without their star running back, the Vikings are relegated to plodding efforts from RB Toby Gerhart and a pass attack vs. a defense not afraid of the run. As rough as QB Christian Ponder has been at times in his first few years, it gets rougher when he is facing pass rushes without his starting running backs.
For while Peterson is sorely missed on offense, we also learned how valuable Pro Bowl Fullback Jerome Felton is to the team. He has been held out of games this preseason like his running mate. RB Matt Asiata and others have filled in, but their is a glaring drop in talent from starters to reserve when it comes to running backs for the Vikings. And that is not meant to be a slam on Asiata, or Gerhart, but rather a long-winded compliment of our backfield, which is maybe the best in football.
So tonight we get to see our starters for a lengthy period. Or at least most of them. Felton is still not expected to play, and without him, I doubt Peterson will stay in more than a few series. WR Jarius Wright will not play. DT Sharrif Floyd, one of the three first-round picks, will not play. MLB Erin Henderson was dinged in practice and may not play as much as he otherwise would.
As for the Vikings faithful, I would say many remain skeptical.
Sure, there will always be fans who predict 10-12 win seasons every year. They bleed purple, love whomever is quarterback, and have named their pets after current players. I overheard a man call his large dog "Fusco" the other day. These fans will think nothing of an 0-4 preseason, nor become concerned about such things as owner fraud, injuries, or offensive schemes. They just want to be able to wear purple and beat Green Bay. Adrian Peterson will certainly carry them to the Promised Land.
The majority of home fans are skeptical. They saw a lackluster effort vs. the Bills last week as a sign all is not well. They doubt Ponder's ability to throw under pressure. Many are concerned that Leslie Frazier is not the right guy. They are further concerned the Lions and Bears may both be better than Minnesota in 2013, and that last year was a fluke. Further, these fans see Ziggy Wilf's troubles as a sign we may lose the stadium. If tonight's game does not go well for Minnesota, this will be the proof that our cynical brethren need to predict an 8-8 or worse record. They are a waiting to be angry group.
And then their are the extremists. Kind of a local fan-terrorists. They spend their Sundays cursing at the television. Or laughing. They almost enjoy when the team loses so that they can find their purple-bleeding friends and make fun of them. They have predicted failure and relish in it. They are certain that they could do a better job than Ponder, coach Frazier, or GM Rick Spielman. Every dropped pass, missed block, or whiff on a tackle is proof to these fans that there will never be a team like that of the 1970s. They have already tried and convicted Ziggy, and sold our team to Los Angeles. These were once bleeding purple fans, who may have suffered too great in the 1970s, 1987, 1998, or 2009. Too many close calls changed them from die-hards to haters.
Tonight we face the 49ers. Our fan-base is at the ready....