Sidney Rice hauling in highlight-reel catches. Jared Allen putting the QB into the turf. Adrian Peterson juking linebackers out of their cleats. This was the Minnesota Vikings of 2009.
The Buffalo Bills – the two-win Buffalo Bills – have a way of making teams look good. There’s no question about that.
But the Vikings looked an awful lot like the team that a year ago went to the NFC championship game and nearly to the Super Bowl. The only thing missing in Sunday’s 38-14 win was the Silver Fox himself – Brett Favre.
Favre sustained an injury to his throwing shoulder in the first series Sunday, so Tarvaris Jackson took over. Jackson tossed three interceptions, but thanks to great field position afforded him by the defense, he also kept the offense moving.
Rice caught two touchdowns, looking fully recovered from the hip surgery that robbed the Vikings of his services for the first half of the season.
And the defense completely shut down the Bills’ offensive attack, if you could call it that. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick looked more like the journeyman he was considered to be coming into the season, rather than the “franchise quarterback” that Bills head coach Chan Gailey suggested he could be earlier this season. But it wasn’t all Fitzpatrick’s fault. Nothing was working. Running game was stale. Stevie Johnson had the dropsies again. And so on. And so on.
The Vikings face some tough tests coming up, with games against the New York Giants (8-4), Chicago Bears (9-3) and Philadelphia Eagles (8-4).
Any talk of the playoffs is crazy talk. Six teams in the NFC have at least eight wins and none of them are in the NFC West, which means those six teams are fighting for five playoff spots. The Vikings would have to pass two of them – plus teams like seven-win Tampa – to get a wild-card berth.
And I’m pretty sure the Vikings were eliminated from the NFC North race today. If Bears lost out and Vikings won out, they’d both be 9-7 and even in the head-to-head race. But the Bears can do no worse than 4-2 in the division, while the Vikings can do no better than 3-3. So that’s over with.
The Vikings now need to focus on the future. The franchise would be best-served if Favre didn’t play the rest of the season so coaches can determine whether or not Jackson is worth considering as a potential starter in 2011.
But we all know Favre will be back.Â At least more games like Sunday’s will help fans get over what seems like a lost season.