From 2009 to the present day, the Vikings have been all over the map when it comes to performance and record. They’ve been good enough to almost make it to the Super Bowl. They’ve been bad enough to get rid of two head coaches. They’ve had surprisingly good seasons and surprisingly terrible seasons.
Through it all, though, there has been a troubling constant: the Vikings have been awful in the past seven seasons in primetime games.
That brings us to the Giants’ 31-24 victory Monday night over the Dolphins, which strangely has relevance to all of this. Because of that victory, the Vikings’ game Dec. 27 at TCF Bank Stadium against the Giants has been flexed to a 7:30 p.m. start instead of a noon start. That means two things:
1) You’ll need to wear an extra layer or two. This is the first night game at TCF Bank Stadium for the Vikings in their two full years on campus. They did play the Bears there on Monday night in 2010, after the Dome roof collapse.
So there will be a nice bit of symmetry: the first and last regular-season Vikings games at their temporary outdoor home will be night games in December. And it likely will be cold. The average high temperature in Minneapolis on Dec. 27 is 26 degrees. The average low is 13. That’s a pretty big difference.
2) The Vikings have an opportunity to reverse their trend of poor night time performances.
How bad has it been? Shockingly bad, as I found out when I went back through the history. From 2009 until now, the Vikings are 3-18 in night games, including the playoffs (and including the infamous Josh Freeman game in 2013). Their last win at night actually came in that same 2013 season, with Christian Ponder leading the way in a Thursday night win over Washington.
They are 49-41-1 in all other games during that span.
As I’ve written before, using history as a means to predict the future is tricky business. All that really matters is the here and now. It’s also true that primetime games tend to be against better opponents, which can account for some (though not all) of the Vikings’ struggles at night.
But 3-18 is a pretty significant sample size, even if only three of the games (0-3, with losses to Green Bay last year plus San Francisco and Arizona this year, all on the road) came under Mike Zimmer.
It suggests a certain level of discomfort in primetime games, which disrupt routines and shine a national spotlight in ways a noon Sunday kickoffs just don’t.
Zimmer, though, has been a master this season at using perceptions to change his team’s reality. The Vikings last year struggled against the NFC North, and he used that as fuel whenever it was mentioned. The Vikings were 2-8 in his first 10 road games as a head coach. He used that, too. The Vikings are 3-1 against the division this year and 4-1 in road games since the rough start.
Can’t win in primetime? That has to be Zimmer’s new motivational ploy.