The NFC playoff situation is so awesomely bad that I can’t express myself. Until the last couple of years, nearly every year in the NFC the top seeds advanced. It was a given. Then, two years ago, the Cowboys lost to the Giants. Last year the Giants lost to the Eagles and the Cardinals beat the Panthers. This year, we’re looking at the most open playoff scenario ever.
In the last two weeks, the top two seeds in the NFC are 0-4. For most of the year we talked about a Vikings/Saints NFC Championship game as if it were preordained. It’s not. In fact, it would be conceivable to see both lose in the first round at this rate. But the NFL playoffs are now about randomness, so these teams probably will get it together and win that game.
Last night’s loss was a stomach punch to the Vikings. In the first half their offense seemed to be led by Jeff Fisher in Super Bowl 34. In short, they did nothing and the Bears took a 16-0 lead.
I’m not sure what’s happened in the past month, but after being told that there was no parity, bad teams are jumping up and beating good teams a lot. The Bucs beat the Saints. The Raiders beat the Eagles, Steelers, and Broncos. The Chiefs beat the Steelers. How did the Titans lose to the Steelers again?
In the second half, the offense returned but the kick coverage team was hilariously bad. The Vikings scored a TD and had the extra point blocked (harbinger of sorrow there). Daniael Manning returned the kick to the Viking 33 and the Bears scored easily. The Vikings struck back. Jay Cutler threw a dumb interception. The Vikings scored again. And again. The Bears got another great kickoff return and Cutler threw another touchdown pass. Jon Gruden praised the goal posts. Best he’s ever seen.
We’ve had more last-minute drama this year than any other year I can think of. Once again, as if mandated by fate, the Vikings faced fourth and goal from the six. On the previous play Favre threw it to Harvin in the corner. I thought he should have thrown the same route to Sidney Rice, the 6’5 jump-ball specialist. So he did. Tie game.
The Bears got the ball first in OT and, against protocol, did not score. Even though the Bear D was missing Charles Tillman (why again is he nicknamed “Peanut”?), the Vikings couldn’t move. The Bears got the ball back. Cutler tried to throw an interception but the Vikings were more sporting. It was the longest five minutes of overtime ever. Favre hit Peterson on a screen. Peterson was past the 30. Hunter Hillenmeyer reached from behind Peterson and punched the ball out. See why he’s not the number one fantasy pick, people?
I liked the last play. This is what teams should do in overtime more often. If Jeff Fisher tried this in a dream, he’s wake up all sweaty like it was a nightmare. “Was my kicker injured?” he’d yell. Cutler hit Devin Aromashodu, who needs no nickname, on a go. There was nothing tricky to it. It was such a simple call that Antoine Winfield, an All-Pro corner, just let him go.
A loss not only took the Vikings out of the running for home-field advantage; they now are not in control for a home playoff game. Can the Vikings win in Philadelphia? Heck, can they beat the Packers in a first-round rematch?
There is such a thing as peaking too soon. The Saints peaked in their win over the Patriots. The Vikings had it all clicking in a win over the Bengals two weeks ago. The Colts intentionally murdered their mojo and let the Jets beat them. The playoffs are going to be fun this year.