Football was all about question marks going into this season. Maybe more than usual.
Some were answered (I guess you could say the Browns are interesting in a high school science experiment sort of way, while the Broncos are still great even with their rookie quarterback and Jay Cutler still isn’t very good no matter who the Bears put in front to protect him), others we’re still in the middle of (New England did pretty good without Tom Brady, but how he will play in his first game of the year and how his team that’s coming back after an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills will play, is still not totally certain). That’s the nature of sports, but this year could have appropriately been dubbed “Stranger Things: The NFL Edition” thanks to all the uncertainty. There was no clear favorite going in, and players like Philadelphia Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz and the Tony Romo-less Dallas Cowboys have shown that no matter what you thought before the season started, now they’re teams you should be paying attention to.
And then you have the Minnesota Vikings. One of the last undefeated teams left, the best team in the NFC North (they proved that by beating the Green Bay Packers) and a team that will be on the national stage tonight as they face off against the always something or another New York Giants.
All of that, and they’ve proven they have one of the league’s elite defenses, right up there with the Seattle Seahawks and defending Super Bowl champs out of Denver – a purple curtain that other teams can’t figure out. And like the Broncos, the Vikings went into this season with a whole bunch of quarterback questions to answer after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrible injury during a preseason drill. Unlike the Broncos, Minnesota had Adrian Peterson to hand the ball off to.
And then they didn’t after Peterson injured and then had surgery for the lateral meniscus in his knee. Peterson is currently on injured reserve and the earliest he would be able to come back is Week 11. All of that, and the team traded a first-round pick away to get Sam Bradford to lead the team’s offense. All signs that you should probably not count on the Vikings to do much of anything. Right?
Wrong. Huge wrong. Offense is important, but Minnesota has shown over the last few games that they boast a defense that scares the living hell out of opposing quarterbacks, racking up 15 sacks (second behind Denver) and showing they can take the ball away whether it’s in the air or on the ground. They’re three games in, but this Vikings team has shown a hell of a lot, and tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup against the Giants could end up being one of those games that you look back on and recall that’s when the team that’s back in the NFC Championship game or even the Super Bowl really got rolling.
Of course, the Giants would love this game to be that game for them as well. Or at the very least, they’d love to stop the Vikings’ momentum and stay in the hunt for the NFC East crown. And while it’s easy to say that you can depend on Eli Manning to show up when it counts, two of the Vikings have come against elite quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. Claiming a victory against a team led by a quarterback with two Super Bowl titles would simply add more reason to think that, despite whatever happened to their offense, the Minnesota Vikings are very serious about where they want to be on February 5th.