Monday, November 17, 2008

Average is as average does

In a mediocre division with three .500 teams (and the Lions, who only barely resemble an NFL team), the Vikings are still in the race. They can still make the playoffs, win their division, and then, who knows? Teams have come back from worse starts than 5-5 or gone into the playoffs after so-so regular seasons (think last year's Giants and the 2005 Steelers) and gone all the way, so maybe, just maybe, the Vikings can close out strong and ride a late-season surge deep into the playoffs. It could happen.

I just ain't betting on it.

The Vikings season is, for all intents and purposes, over. I know, that's a strong statement to make with six games still remaining on the docket, but really, does anyone believe any more that this team is going anywhere? You can't take an entire half off, like they did yesterday against Tampa Bay, and still think you're a good team. You aren't.

And by "team," I don't mean the players, whom we still think (perhaps erroneously) are good and be dismissive about the coaching or play-calling. The Vikings are 5-5. They are average. The entire team, players, coaching, ownership, everything figures into that 5-5 record. Maybe the team really is just a couple of pseudo-quick fixes (head coach and quarterback) from being dominant, but those changes aren't coming this season. Like it or not, Brad Childress is a part of this team and will be at least until the end of the season, a season that started out looking so promising but now is on track for, at best, an 8-8 or 9-7 finish.

And even that might not be so easy. What looked like a creampuff late schedule at the start of the year now looks like a nightmare. Sure, we still get Detroit (though after that lackluster 12-10 win at home and the fact that Daunte Culpepper looks halfway competent and will sure as heck be motivated to beat his former team, who knows?), and Chicago looked bad yesterday, but they're still not a pushover. Then we have Jacksonville on the road, who, at 4-6, have still outscored their opponents, Atlanta (6-4), Arizona (7-3), and the Giants (9-1) to close out the season. Two wins out of six in that group is a distinct possibility. Three would be decent. Four (which would result in a 9-7 record and possibly win the division) looks nearly impossible.

This isn't a team that's going nowhere. It's a team that's going somewhere, but it just doesn't know where. It has just enough talent to tantalize you but then lays a big enough egg (again, second half against Tampa Bay) to break your heart. You know they can play better, but it's like they're saying, "No thanks, we'd rather be mediocre."

And right now, that's what they are. The Vikings are 5-5, and they'll probably be lucky to get to 8-8. Which still might win the division, save Brad Childress's job, and allow us to get stomped out of the first round of the playoffs, maybe against Tampa Bay again. They should just take the whole game off this time, and save us the trouble of caring.

Edit: Oh yeah, forgot about Pat Williams' and Kevin Williams' looming suspensions. Eight wins might be optimistic.

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