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PARK POINT – Like many fans in The North Star State I waited for the better part of the week for the NFL Thursday Night Football game to take place. Our Minnesota Vikings were going to be one of the participants, taking on last season's NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The good part was that barring the 2017 NFC Championship game, where our boys in Purple were dismantled by these same Eagles in a 38-7 rout, the Vikes were 4-1 in the last five regular season tilts. But with many questions surrounding the Vikes and how competitive they were going to be this year after a 13-4 record last year, I didn't have a good feeling going in.
In breaking it down in the lead-up to the game I saw that the opening weekend opponent for the Birds was the NE Patriots. The Pats put up an 8-9 record last season and had many struggles as they continue to try to find a new path after the heady days of title after title during the Tom Brady years.
The "rebuild" continues, but this team will always play hard as long as Bill Belichick is the Head Coach.
The Eagles went up 16-0 in the first quarter and most fans would believe this game was over. But the Pats didn't believe it and turned it into a game for the remaining three quarters but did finally succumb to Philly by a 25-20 final. The Eagles have a few substantial injuries to key players. Many teams that just appeared in a Super Bowl from the preceding season have some roster upheaval, and to go along with that, the season that follows usually isn't a great one.
I surmised that the Vikes were going to face a team that struggled in its season opener, had some injuries and will be on the same short week schedule as their opponent was on. But then you could turn right around and make the same case for the Vikes. And then you would also have to account for the lack of a running game for the Vikings, some injuries up front on the 'O' line and the same short week for preparation.
If the Vike's opening loss to the TB Bucs was a Slopfest, we just may have been in store for Slopfest II.
I am sorry to say that's how it turned out. And as sloppy as this game was it still ended up in a 34-28 loss for the Vikes sending them to an 0-2 season start. Let's address that right now. In some of my recent daily studies I came across some data that examined what takes place in the first three games of each season relative to a team's playoff chances.
If you go 3-0 you will get a spot 76% of the time. If you begin at 2-1 your chances drop to 55%. If you start 1-2 you drop to a 32% probability, and finally, if you go 0-3 you have only a 14% opportunity for a postseason invite.
On Sunday in Week 3, the Vikes will meet the LA Chargers in Minneapolis and they will be in the battle of their football season lives to avoid the 0-3 record and the possibility that the remainder of the 2023 season will simply be for playing "out" the regular season.
A very quick look at the Chargers shows they are mid-pack in the passing game and upper-level in the running game. They are not a team with a strong defense and their special teams contributions are negligible.
For the Vikes, the run game is non-existent, the passing game is the current NFL leader, the special teams are above average, and the defense has improved over its Week One performance. The running game woes are a combination of the lack of a feature back working behind an injured and banged up 'O' line. The passing game is nothing short of excellent, but I learned years back that one-dimensional offensive teams are inconsistent winners.
The good news is that the team will improve throughout the season. The bad news is that if the team drops the tilt versus the LAC, their shot at the playoffs this season might effectively be over. There is some double bad news to report on this week though and it has an ugly undertone to it. Vikings running back Alexander Mattison has struggled so far in the early campaign. But bear in mind the team has a banged-up front line and is likely not the most talented line in the league to begin with. After 2 games and compared to other teams who have only played once as of this writing, the Vikes are tied for 4th worst in the NFL. After this Sunday's games they will drop to the bottom.
After the Thursday night loss and a very poor performance in the run game, (28 yards net rushing) Mattison reported that he was getting upwards of 60 messages on his Instagram account that were directing racist and hate-filled vitriol his way, with many of them featuring the 'N' word.
Sadly, Mattison stated on Friday morning that this isn't the first instance of receiving these types of messages.
I had to stop right there and think about this for a few minutes. The scope of this is sickening to me. I am aging, I think I'm socially and culturally in tune with life in this country at the moment, and I've been to other places in this world. I'd like to think that I've "been around the block" a few times. I'm not unaware of the stench of racism, it's abhorrent behaviors and that it has had a grip on this country forever. Its practitioners are the weakest of the weak. Hate and racism aren't hereditary, they are taught. They are taught to impressionable young minds by people who had the same done to them.
It's always been here and has been propped up by a government that has been racist in and of itself. If you don't think so I can point you toward at least two campaigns of genocide against people of color right here on our own turf. It would be hard to deny that this same body operated another campaign against people of color when it never renounced the post-9/11 hatred levied against the entire Muslim world here.
In August of 1965, the United States made the Voting Rights Act into law which also featured some basic Civil Rights components. I was entering 6th grade that fall. There were bumps in the road over this, and then a period of calm whereby the open racism and hate I witnessed prior to that in our society were somewhat silenced, at least publicly. But then, when the biggest intellectual failure to ever become President in this country, I'm talking about you Don Trump, campaigned and then won the 2016 General Election in a perfect storm of strange occurrences, he told all of the haters here it was okay to go "public" with their rage once again.
In true Trump fashion, it's been all downhill ever since. And now this. Hating on a football player because your team lost. Wow. Get a life punks. PEACE