A season that started in despair and then rallied to hope has now found itself smack dab in the middle of mediocrity. A fan base that was only able to enjoy renewed enthusiasm for a singular calendar week is now stuck watching a team that might feel like it’s the very definition of NFL average.
I know it’s easy to feel this way after the events of the last four games but I’m here to remind you that even during an average Vikings season in the middle of a global pandemic, we still have things for which we can be thankful. I’m not just talking about the obvious ones here either. Any Vikings fan can cling to the major bright spots of Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Eric Kendricks. Here are 5 other things you can grab hold of as you celebrate this holiday weekend.
Offensive Line Improvements
It’s happening. IT’S. FINALLY. HAPPENING. After years of overpriced veterans playing out of position and third stringers giving up important strip sacks, the Minnesota Vikings finally have a young offensive line with a future.
Ezra Cleveland’s midseason emergence is exactly what the Purple needed to add to Garrett Bradbury’s strong sophomore campaign and Brian O’Neill’s Pro Bowl level play. This line is already a massive upgrade from every line in the last eight seasons, and it’s just getting started. Be thankful that for once we’re looking at the offensive line with hope and potential instead of dread and despair.
Who needs turkey when you have an incredible Ham? What’s that you say? That’s the worst joke you’ve ever heard in your entire life? That’s probably correct but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Vikings have one of if not the best full back in the league. It’s easy to heap a ton of praise on Dalvin Cook and the above mentioned line improvements. They certainly deserve it. But CJ Ham is the exact sort of stud that quietly plays a role in one of the best running attacks in the league. Oh and by the way, you can hand him the ball or throw it to him in a pinch and he can make a play. Odds are you’re going to start seeing his name in the Pro Bowl year in and year out.
Extra Playoff Games
With the rules of seasons past, the Vikings 4-6 record through 10 games would’ve been a playoff death sentence. The Seahawks, Buccaneers, and Cardinals are all 6-4 or better and they’d be battling for what would be the final two playoff spots. The Vikings would barely have a glimmer of hope.
This, however, isn’t years past and despite the brutal loss to the Cowboys last weekend, the Vikings are still alive. The NFL added a seventh playoff team this past off-season and now discussions of adding an eighth due to Covid are floating around. If the current system stays in place, it might feel unlikely but the Vikings could chase and catch the Arizona Cardinals for the seven spot. If the league adds an eighth spot, they’re only a game behind the Chicago Bears. A Bears team they have already beaten once and still have one more match-up left in the season. Be thankful that these playoff additions are giving a difficult season some sort of meaning.
Before the let down against Dallas, many Viking fans held a similar line of thinking. Let’s win these next three games, get to 7-5 and head into a tough Tampa Bay game that we might not necessarily NEED.
After the let down, the Vikings no longer have that luxury. They likely need every game going forward without exception.
If they can manage to grab the next two, which is no guarantee, it would lead to an incredibly important matchup against one of the better teams in the conference with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. If I would’ve asked you heading into the bye week if that game was going to have any meaning you would’ve shouted, “NO!”
Not only could it have playoff ramifications, but it also represents an important moment for an incredibly young team. Battle back from adversity and give yourself an opportunity to play in an incredibly important moment against a high-level opponent. If nothing else it should create experience and confidence for all the young guys this team will be leaning on next year and into the future.
When your team is hovering around no man’s land, it’s nice to be able to dip back into the nostalgia and remember the good times. So if you find yourself this holiday weekend frustrated that the team doesn’t have a great chance at a high draft pick or a playoff spot, hop over to YouTube and click up some good memories. It’s Thanksgiving, so I suggest you start with Randy Moss’ 1998 performance and then head over to my go-to, Favre to Lewis.
I know this season hasn’t been great, but I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend and remembers that we still, even as Vikings fans, can be thankful.