So it has come to this: not only did the Vikings tumble from 5-0 and on top of the world to 8-8 and not even in the playoffs, but also their fans are now left with a rough postseason reality.
The four remaining teams in the NFC are:
• Dallas, which became a serious Vikings nemesis thanks to the Drew Pearson game in 1975 and which many purple faithful don't like on general principle.
• Atlanta, which delivered the most crushing defeat in at least the past 40 years of Vikings football (since, you know, Monday marked the 40-year anniversary of the last time Minnesota even played in a Super Bowl).
• Seattle, which delivered the freshest crushing playoff defeat on a long list of them (the anniversary of which was also earlier this week on Tuesday).
• Green Bay, the Vikings' biggest rival by an increasingly wide margin.
Can you fathom, dear Vikings fan, rooting for any of the four?
I posed the question on Twitter, and it seems like the early takeaway is that Atlanta is the team most likely to get the most Minnesota support. It's true that this version of the Falcons is fairly likable and that outside of 1998 — admittedly a pretty big deal — there aren't serious grievances a Vikings fan would have with that franchise.
@CoreyAldritt tweeted his order of preference: "For me it's Atlanta, Dallas, (gap) Seattle, (Grand Canyon sized gap) Green Bay. Still not over 98 but this is likable Falcons team."
@Shefonomics added: "ATL. As awful as '98 ended, I have always blamed the Vikings for their own failure on that one. Also, I've always liked Matty Ice."
It doesn't appear Seattle will get much love from Vikings fans, with a couple fans mentioning the wounds from a year ago are still too fresh.
Dallas, which plays host to the Packers on Sunday, looks to be getting some support from the anti-Green Bay crowd. "Dallas this week, then go from there," tweeted @toben41.
To that end, the strongest single sentiments were either "anyone but Green Bay" — or some version of hoping that nobody wins or the world ends before we have to watch these games. To the latter point, the first is impossible and the second is unlikely (and, really, the wiping out of our entire existence so we don't have to watch a pair of football games between teams we don't like doesn't feel like a good trade).
There is a school of thought, though, that says rooting for the team that beat your favorite team (in this case, Green Bay since the Packers won the NFC North) is smart because it transfers some sort of glory onto your team. I know very few people who actually believe this, and those I do know are able to watch sports with a sort of detached rationalism that is hard to fathom.
Overall, I think if you're a Vikings fan you want to see Atlanta at Dallas in the NFC title game, with the Falcons going to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, my gut tells me both road teams are going to win this weekend and we're going to be faced with the reality of Green Bay at Seattle.